After a week-long shutdown, Chicago Public schoolteachers will finally return to their posts on Wednesday after reaching a deal with City Hall.
The shutdown, which had returned the nation’s third-largest school system to remote-only education after the Chicago Teachers Union voted to refuse to return to the classroom unless proper safety protocols were implemented. The shutdown has lasted almost exactly a week already.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the deal with the Chicago Teachers Union on Monday that would return students to classrooms on Wednesday. The deal came after the Illinois House of Delegates voted to suspend the union’s remote action, which city hall had blasted as an illegal work stoppage.
“No one is more frustrated than I am,” Mayor Lightfoot said after the deal was reached. She added: “I’m glad that we’re hopefully putting this behind us and looking forward. But there does come a point when enough is enough.”
By the looks of it, the “anti-science” teachers union got most of what it wanted. The agreement includes metrics on when a classroom or a school should go remote, enhances testing, and increased contact tracing. The union has insisted the city didn’t do enough to provide enough testing and vaccination opportunities.
“I am not going to say anyone in our team feels this is a home run,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey during a separate press conference. He added that the deal moves the union toward as much as it could get for now and its members worked hard without pay.
A resolution to the conflict came after the Biden administration urged Lightfoot and the union to reach a deal.
“The president’s been very clear, as we have been clear: We are on the side of schools being open,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said earlier on Monday, when asked about the standoff in Chicago.
This latest battle between city hall and the teachers follows the union’s longest strike since 1987 in 2019, which was ordered to demand higher pay as well as more nurses and social workers in schools. And in early 2021, the union’s caused a delayed and phased-in return to school as it battled with city hall for resources and demanded certain protocols for students.
“I’m hopeful that this is the end, at least for this school year,” Lightfoot said, adding that the agreement takes the district through the end of summer school. “I’m hopeful that we will have a stable, uneventful rest of the school year.”
But just as this problem ended, another has reared its head for Mayor Lightfoot: she tested positive for COVID on Tuesday, meaning it would have been pretty difficult to continue negotiations, anyway.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot tested positive for COVID-19, her office announces. She encourages people to get vaccinated and boosted pic.twitter.com/DFs3ZUxZDR
— Gregory Pratt (@royalpratt) January 11, 2022
Of course, Lightfoot’s sickness is just the latest example of a ‘breakthrough’ infection.