Chicago Public Schools Reopening

Lily Dokhanchi

Over the past few weeks there has been much discussion surrounding the Chicago Public Schools reopening for in-person learning. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been leading the procession of those in favor of CPS resuming in-person learning, but the Chicago Teachers Union has been outspoken of their disagreement with her over this. The CTU has been concerned about vaccinations, students potentially not wearing masks properly, and the overall environment being unsafe due to COVID-19. The situation progressed even further beyond debate and protest in late January when the CTU threatened to strike if they were to be forced to go back into work. This strike would have been considered illegal by the CPS leaders because the CTU would have been violating their decision for teachers to go back to in-person work. The CTU was very clear in saying they would continue to work from home, which means they intended for their decision to not be considered a strike. The CPS officials did consider locking out teachers from remote learning so they would be forced to go into work, but after weeks of turmoil and negotiation, the CTU and CPS officials reached an agreement of how in-person learning would resume.

Students in Pre-K and special education groups returned to school Thursday, February 11. Following this, kindergarten through 5th graders will return on March 1st, and 6th through 8th graders will return on March 8th. Although there has not been any information on whether high school students will return to school, they still continue with remote learning and hope a decision will be reached after evaluating how the younger students and teachers handle this transition back towards in-person learning. Many parents and teachers are still concerned about safety precautions, but the CPS officials have implemented protections to keep staff and students safe. The opportunity for teachers to sign up for vaccines, mask enforcements, and equipment/barriers to keep students socially distanced have all been implemented to promote safety. Although the number of students returning to school is limited right now, this is a step towards a safe return to life and education before COVID-19.