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No in-person classes Friday as CPS, CTU continue negotiations to avert strike

The heated public rhetoric that has engulfed the district’s relationship with the union was toned down, at least for a day.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson appears at news conference this week with Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

As negotiations continue between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, Thursday came and went with little news out of either camp.

CPS told families once again to keep their children home for remote learning Friday while CTU continues its labor action that calls for the collective refusal of in-person work until an agreement is reached. But the heated public rhetoric that has engulfed the district’s relationship with the union was toned down, at least for a day.

Asked in a radio appearance if there was enough time left to reach an agreement, CEO Janice Jackson said she’s committed to the scheduled Monday return of 62,000 K-8 students and about 10,000 teachers — plus 3,200 preschool and special education students whose in-person classes have been canceled this week.

“We expect students and staff to be in school on Monday,” Jackson said Thursday on WBEZ’s Reset. “That’s what we expect to happen.

“We’re prepared to compromise and give up on things that we were dug in on,” Jackson said. “But the one thing we all have to agree on is that students belong in school, and that every parent should have an option.”

Two days after CPS said it presented the union with an “updated comprehensive proposal,” the CTU countered with its own proposal Thursday, the details of which are not yet clear. The two sides agree on more issues than they disagree on at this point in bargaining, and both are hoping to reach an agreement by this weekend.

CTU and CPS are in agreement on PPE and ventilation protocols, and the formation of health and safety committees at each school to monitor and report problems.

Progress has been made on establishing a health metric that would determine school closures, but an agreement hasn’t yet been reached. The same goes for testing of staff and students. CPS has proposed testing school staff twice per month and students in the 10 ZIP codes with the highest infection rates once a month. CTU is additionally asking for every staff member and student to be tested once they return to get a sense of how widespread infections are in the school communities.

The largest remaining disagreements are over whether teachers who have medically vulnerable relatives at home should receive accommodations for remote work — and which conditions would qualify. The other sticking point is whether members should be required to return to classrooms before they receive a vaccination.