Chicago schools closed after teachers union votes for remote classes

Chicago teachers voted on Tuesday in favor of working remotely instead of returning to in-person classes amid a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases.

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Chicago Public Schools remained closed Wednesday morning after a majority of the city’s teachers union members voted in favor of using remote learning options due to COVID-19 concerns.

The Chicago Teachers Union said 73% of its members voted Tuesday night in favor of a resolution to work remotely instead of returning to in-person classes amid a nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases.

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Chicago Public School teachers, parents and students protest in the neighborhood of Mayor Lori Lightfoot on September 13, 2021 in Chicago.(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

“Tonight, as educators, parents, neighbors and community members we had to make the tough decision to support a resolution to return to remote learning in our city’s public schools,” the teachers union said in a written statement released Tuesday.

“This decision was made with a heavy heart and a singular focus on student and community safety,” the union continued. “Let us be clear. The educators of this city want to be in their classrooms with their students. We believe that our city’s classrooms are where our students should be. Regrettably, the mayor and her [Chicago Public Schools] leadership have put the safety and vibrancy of our students and their educators in jeopardy.”

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot immediately condemned the teacher union’s vote during a Tuesday night press conference and gave a warning that teachers who don’t show up to work in-person Wednesday morning will be placed on no-pay status, according to the Chicago Tribune.

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Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot speaks during a ceremonial groundbreaking at the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park on September 28, 2021 in Chicago. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Lightfoot also accused the union’s leaders of “politicizing the pandemic.”

“There is no basis in the data, the science or common sense for us to shut an entire system down when we can surgically do this at a school level,” Lightfoot told reporters, according to the Chicago Tribune.

On Wednesday, the teachers union and some of its members accused Lightfoot of locking them out of their Google classroom remote learning software.

“Woke up this morning, ready to work and support our seniors,” educator Rigo Padilla Pérez tweeted Wednesday morning. “Unfortunately, @ChiPubSchools and @PedroCPSCEO decided to lock all the staff.”

Lightfoot’s office has not responded to theGrio‘s attempt to get a response to the lock-out allegations.

The seven-day moving average of COVID-19 cases throughout the United States rose to more than 491,000 on Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At least 56.4 million cases of the disease have been reported, according to the agency.

In Chicago, the daily average of COVID-19 cases rose to more than 4,700 on Dec. 31, a 12% surge from the previous week, according to the city’s latest department of health data. COVID-19 related hospitalizations in the Windy City are up 22% from the previous week.

The union’s resolution said its teacher members could return to in-person classes as early as Jan. 18, but will continue working remotely until the city’s COVID-19-related public health metrics drop to the levels they were in February 2021, when the school district resumed in-person classes.

More than 340,000 grade school-aged children were enrolled in Chicago Public Schools last school year. The city’s teachers union said it represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support staffers.

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