At long last, it sounds like a good chunk of Chicago students will be returning to school this week. A tentative agreement between the city and the Chicago Teachers Union is on the verge of being reached, Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) announced on Sunday. One that could prevent a strike. CTU's House of Delegates will vote on the agreement Monday morning. If approved, pre-K and cluster students will return to their classrooms.
Like many parents in the Windy City, Lightfoot had lost her patience with the teachers unions. Weeks of negotiations which amounted to more than 80 meetings between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union were of no use. And last week Lightfoot said they were "out of runway."
In last Thursday's press conference, Lightfoot said that she was, “deeply disappointed to announce we still have not reached a deal. [Wednesday], there were a series of steps backwards that were simply not productive,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
CTU countered and said it was the city that was ruining negotiations because they weren't taking their safety concerns seriously. In fact, in a letter to parents, the union predicted death and illness would follow the reopening.
“We love your children," CTU wrote. "We desperately want to be back in classrooms with them, but we are not willing to accept the inevitable illness and death a reckless reopening will inflict on our city."
Lightfoot, however, argued that they had "bent over backwards" to ease teachers concerns about safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. CPS, she explained, had invested $100 mil in mitigations, such as ventilation, testing, health screenings, face coverings, and enhanced cleanings.
Yesterday, Chicago Mayor @LoriLightfoot admonished the Chicago Teachers Union for holding up a deal that would reopen public schools.— Senate Republicans (@NRSC) February 5, 2021
Meanwhile, @TammyforIL, has been completely silent about the damage being done to children. https://t.co/q598eUHmLe pic.twitter.com/TwVCDwb6Pt
But on Sunday, the exhausted mayor shared the good news.
“Our children will be returning to in-person learning this week,” she announced.
SCHOOL REOPENING: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces tentative school reopening deal with public schools and teacher’s union: “Our children will be returning to in-person learning this week.” pic.twitter.com/tmw7KemzPh— Forbes (@Forbes) February 7, 2021
Last week, as the fight to reopen schools was still very much raging, CNN brought invited a Chicago teacher on to discuss what exactly made her think going back to school would be such a death trap.
"My concerns that remain, No. 1 concern is I have, is that COVID is still spreading in Chicago," the teacher, Kirstin Roberts, said.
In her presser last week, Mayor Lightfoot noted that the citywide COVID-19 positivity rate has fallen to about 5 percent, the city’s lowest rate since infections spiked in October.