Negotiations over CPS reopening plans in a ‘sensitive place’: CTU

About 62,000 students and 10,000 teachers are tentatively expected to return to school Monday.

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Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey

Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said Friday that negotiations with CPS over reopening plans are in a “sensitive place.”

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file

Negotiations over Chicago Public Schools reopening plans are in a “sensitive place” and are expected to continue through the weekend, union leaders said Friday.

“We are obviously going to keep talking. We want an agreement,” Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said during an online call with union members and reporters. “If the mayor is talking about the CTU being the source of stopping things up by raising unreasonable demands, that’s not true. We want to raise demands about things that matter at our schools and the safety of our members and the children, and allow us to get schools open in a safe way.”

Sharkey said teachers refusing to report to work in person are still getting “threatening letters” from the administration that include warnings that “lockouts begin Monday.”

“They are not going to accomplish by force what they can’t accomplish with persuasion,” Sharkey said. “They are not going to accomplish with bullying and threats what they can’t accomplish by looking at us and trying to make rational agreements with us. We are teachers. We understand how bullying works.”

In-person classes have been canceled through Friday for about 3,200 pre-kindergarten and special education students while CTU teachers collectively refuse to work in classrooms until an agreement is reached. The return to school of an additional 62,000 K-8 students and about 10,000 teachers is planned for Monday.

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

A key disagreement is over whether teachers who have medically vulnerable relatives at home should receive accommodations for remote work and which conditions would qualify. The union has called CPS’ current policy on that issue “inconsistent, unfair, chaotic.”

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