Chicago schools: Public school students will return to classroom Wednesday after

Chicago teachers will be back in school Tuesday and students are scheduled to return to in-person learning on Wednesday after the Chicago Teachers Union house of delegates voted to end the teachers’ work action, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a Monday night news conference.

The stalemate exemplifies debates playing out across the country: When and how should students return to classrooms during the Omicron variant surge?
Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have said students in the district, the country’s third-largest, should learn in classrooms and that the district has taken steps to promote Covid-19 safety in schools.

But the union wants schools to be able switch from in-person learning to virtual learning if Covid-19 absences amount to more than 25% of school staff; 30% of elementary school students; or 25% of high school students.

How 10 parents of school-age kids are coping with Omicron, in their own words

Negotiators from the teachers’ union and the mayor’s CPS team were at the bargaining table until about 10 p.m. CT Sunday, union president Jesse Sharkey said Monday.

Negotiations are at “serious phase,” Sharkey said, but the two sides are still divided on key issues.

“I mean, if you say school is open … and half the students don’t show up, you’re not doing any learning for half the students, right?” Sharkey said.

“And so if remote learning is half as good, it’s the same difference, isn’t it?”

Lightfoot told CNN on Friday that officials are willing to shut down individual schools if needed, but district-wide remote learning was not an option.

The mayor also said keeping students out of classrooms is “untenable” — and not just because of the difficulties of learning remotely.

Lightfoot said many single parents are unable to go to work because they have to stay home with their children. And many children rely on school meals during the week.

What other school districts are doing

Across the country, many school districts are still grappling with reopening after the holiday break.

In Atlanta and Cleveland, schools returned to in-person learning Monday after a week of remote learning.

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But schools in Jefferson County, Kentucky, and Nashua, New Hampshire, were closed to students Monday because of staffing shortages.

Milwaukee students were supposed to return to classrooms Monday, but the school district decided to extend remote learning for another week.

In Baltimore, more than 50 public schools transitioned to virtual learning Monday because of staffing concerns and a rise in Covid-19 cases.

“Decisions are made based on having enough staff available to operate a school OR the ability to conduct COVID-19 testing,” Baltimore City Public Schools said in a written statement. No decision had been made as to when students can return to those classrooms.

In Philadelphia, 91 schools are teaching remotely this week after “Covid-related staffing challenges,” the school district said.

Los Angeles students are slated to return to classrooms Tuesday, and the school district is in the process of universal Covid-19 testing. So far, 50,000 new Covid-19 cases have been identified, and those students and staff members will have to stay home.

Chicago schools will provide KN95 masks

As of Friday, Chicago was averaging more than 5,200 new…

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