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Here’s what’s in the proposal to reopen Chicago Public Schools

The city’s proposed framework to resolve the months-long deadlock over how to safely reopen Chicago Public Schools would start phasing students back into the classroom as early as this week and require that all teachers have the opportunity to be “fully vaccinated” before returning.

Meghan Hayes, who teaches at John Hay Community Academy, teaches her class outside Chicago Public Schools Board President Miguel del Valle’s home in the Cragin neighborhood on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Further down the block, Tracy Royer logged in to teach her Pre-Kindergarten students at Gale Community Academy.
Meghan Hayes, who teaches at John Hay Community Academy, teaches her class outside Chicago Public Schools Board President Miguel del Valle’s home in the Cragin neighborhood on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021. Further down the block, Tracy Royer logged in to teach her pre-Kindergarten students at Gale Community Academy.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

The city’s proposed framework to resolve the months-long deadlock over how to safely reopen Chicago Public Schools would start phasing students back into the classroom as early as this week and require that all teachers have the opportunity to be “fully vaccinated” before returning, according to an overview obtained by the Sun-Times.

During a Sunday news conference, Mayor Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson appeared hopeful the Chicago Teachers Union would soon ratify the proposal and back off threats of striking for the second time in just 15 months. However, the union has made it clear that a formal agreement is not yet in place and the proposal merely serves as a “framework that all of our members must first review and assess.” Here’s what’s in the plan:

Proposed return calendar

  • In-person classes for pre-kindergarten and special education cluster program would resume Thursday;
  • Kindergarten through fifth grade staff would return Feb. 22, with students following March 1;
  • Sixth through eighth grade staff would return March 1, followed by students a week later.

Vaccinations

  • No members of the teachers union would “be required to resume in-person learning prior to having the opportunity to be fully vaccinated;”
  • At least 2,000 vaccine doses would be offered to preschool and special education cluster program staff this week. Half would be offered to each group;
  • The city would begin administering 1,500 vaccine doses to CPS workers each week. Second doses would be guaranteed and wouldn’t count toward that weekly allotment.

Testing

  • Testing would be offered to all staff returning to schools;
  • Testing would be offered to all students 10 or older upon return to schools;
  • All symptomatic students and staff would be tested;
  • Each week, all in-person employees at schools in “high COVID case count neighborhoods” would be tested. Students at those schools would also be tested;
  • Each week, half the in-person employees at other schools would be tested.

Health metrics

  • In-person learning would be paused for 14 days if the citywide COVID-19 test positivity rate increases for seven consecutive days, jumps at least 15% each day compared to a week prior and climbs to 10% or higher on the seventh day;
  • In-person learning in individual classrooms would be halted by one or more positive cases during a “contagious period;”
  • In-person learning at an entire school would be halted following three or more confirmed cases at a school within a 14-day period.

Staff accommodations

  • Employees who are medically vulnerable to COVID-19 or serve as caretakers to those at an elevated risk could continue to work remotely;
  • Lightfoot’s administration also made a major concession that would allow some employees with household members who are at a higher risk to continue working from home. About 350 staffers have been granted that accommodation, while roughly 2,000 are awaiting approval;
  • To maximize the number of household accommodations, principals would: allow teachers and staff with no assigned in-person students to work remotely; reassign students to different homerooms or sections of the same subject or grade levels, including combining classrooms; swap class assignments among teachers and paraprofessionals; pair in-person teachers and staff with those working from home to create rosters that are all in-person or all remote; and create multi-grade classes that span no more than two grade levels;
  • CPS will offer 1,000 vaccines to those workers this week and will require those who take a shot to return two weeks after their first dose.

Other details

  • Building- and district-level safety committees would be created to enforce health and safety protocols and address violations;
  • “Appropriate” personal protective equipment — like N95 masks, gloves and gowns — would be required for certain jobs;
  • Preschool and special education teachers that have been locked out of virtual classrooms would be reinstated;
  • District has committed to a series of ventilation protocols. Classrooms that don’t comply won’t be used.