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Chicago teachers refuse to return to classrooms, balking order from district officials

The teachers voted to act in defiance of an order by Chicago Public School officials to return to classrooms on Monday

Teachers clean and disinfect chairs and tables at an empty school.
Teachers clean and disinfect chairs and tables at an empty school.
AFP via Getty Images
Updated: January 25, 2021 - 7:58am

The Chicago Teachers Union voted Sunday to defy an order that requires them to return to classrooms.

Teachers remain fearful of the novel coronavirus and as a result are now engaged in a showdown between their union and district officials who say that what the union is currently doing amounts to an illegal strike.

Teachers at Chicago Pubic Schools, the third largest school district in the country, were supposed to show up Monday to prepare for the Feb. 1 return of about 70,000 students – grades kindergarten through eighth. However, the union opposed the plan due to health concerns and is insisting that teachers be allowed to continue teaching from home. 

A statement released by the union reads: "There’s no doubt we all want to return to in-person instruction. The issue is CPS’ current unpreparedness for a return to in-person instruction, and the clear and present danger that poses to the health of our families and school communities."

School system representatives said Sunday that they had agreed to delay the teachers' in-person return for two days, to allow both sides more time to negotiate, but that K-8 teachers are still expected to return to classrooms for part-time, in-person on the first of next month. 

Roughly 355,000 students in the Chicago public school system have been learning from home since March 2020. City students have have reportedly struggled with online learning, with low-income, black and Latino students, among those with the biggest difficulties. 

President Biden has pledged to re-open the majority of U.S. schools within the first 100-days of his term. 

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