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Chicago residents oppose return to in-person learning until pandemic is under control, CTU says

The Chicago Teachers Union, which paid for the survey, is calling for an independent mediator to be brought in to help resolve differences with Chicago Public Schools.

CPS students at Roswell B. Mason Elementary School on the Southwest Side.
Chicago Public Schools is bringing back prekindergarten and special education students for in-person learning.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

As Chicago Public Schools prepares a gradual return to the classroom for some students, a majority of city residents say CPS should hold off until the coronavirus is under control, a Chicago Teachers Union survey has found.

The survey, conducted in late October and paid for by the teachers union, found 72% of 500 “likely 2023 municipal voters” agreed that public schools should not reopen for in-person learning, while 22% disagreed. The survey was administered by the Washington, D.C.,-based Lake Research Partners.

“The thing that we continue to say is that safety has to be a priority in the middle of a deadly, global pandemic,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said during a Facebook Live event Monday morning.

Union leaders say while they’ve met repeatedly with administrators to discuss how best to deliver remote learning and how to safely reopen schools, they’ve agreed on almost nothing. The union this week sent a letter to CPS requesting an independent mediator be brought in to help move negotiations along.

“While the law does not require the district to bargain over the decision to reopen, the district has received the union’s request, and we are reviewing it. We continue to meet and work with CTU, as we have all year, in the hopes they will become a productive partner in getting students safely back to in-person learning,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said in a statement.

The district announced last month it would begin a “phased approach” to reopening schools some time in the new academic quarter, which began Monday. The district plans to first bring back prekindergarten and special education students, while requiring social distancing, face masks and temperature checks among other things.