Chicago plans to cancel classes if union votes for remote

Classes in the nation’s third-largest school district will be canceled Wednesday if the teachers union votes to switch to remote learning due to the latest COVID-19 surge, the head of Chicago Public Schools said Tuesday.

Schools CEO Pedro Martinez’s comments come as the district and Chicago Teachers Union are locked in an escalating battle over safety protocols. Students returned to class Monday after a two-week winter break with COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations fueled by the omicron variant at record levels. Votes for union leadership and members were scheduled to end Tuesday evening.

District officials have said they won’t switch back to remote instruction districtwide because it was devastating for children’s learning and mental health, and that schools remain safe with protocols such as required masks, weekly testing and improved air filtration. But the union argued that the district’s safety measures need to be stronger considering the surge. Among the points of contention are metrics that would trigger a school closure.

While the union has characterized the vote as a return to remote instruction, district leaders called it a “walkout.” A contentious battle took place last January over similar issues when the district tried to return to in-person instruction after being remote since March 2020.

Martinez said buildings in the approximately 350,000-student district would remain open regardless of how the union votes.

“If they do take a vote to do a walkout tomorrow, I have to cancel classes,” Martinez said. “I’m not closing the schools, the schools will be open. All staff will be welcome to come to school because we are going to have a plan for our families.”

Both sides were scheduled to continue meeting Tuesday afternoon with union votes, of both the House of Delegates and total membership, scheduled to end in the evening.


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