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CPS, CTU draw closer to deal to reopen high schools

The two sides continued to negotiate, and CTU President Jesse Sharkey told members the union’s bargaining committee would provide an update later Tuesday night.

CPS is developing a plan for high school students and families to use district sites — like this one at Roosevelt High School — for vaccinations, the Chicago Teachers Union says.
CPS is developing a plan for high school students and families to use district sites — like this one at Roosevelt High School — for vaccinations, the Chicago Teachers Union says.
Anthony Vazquez, Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Leaders of Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union have made progress in talks to reopen the city’s high schools but have not yet landed an agreement that would avoid the union’s planned collective action Wednesday.

“The table has moved more in the last couple days, at least on a few key issues for us, than we’ve seen it move for a long time prior to that,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey told members at a virtual meeting Tuesday that was closed to the public.

The two sides continued to negotiate into the evening, and Sharkey told members the CTU’s bargaining committee would provide an update later in the night.

In the case of an agreement, terms of the settlement would be sent to the union’s House of Delegates, which could then pass the deal on to the CTU’s full membership for a vote.

If no deal was reached Tuesday night, potentially thousands of high school teachers and staff were set to defy orders to return to classrooms Wednesday and keep working remotely until CPS and CTU land an agreement. The impact was expected to be minimal with no students back in schools yet and many principals already allowing their staff to work remotely Wednesday anyway — while some others are requiring in-person work. Elementary school teachers are not involved in the action.

Over 4,300 high school workers were due back at the start of this week and about 84% showed up, CPS said. About 26,000 high school students are set to return next Monday.

CPS and CTU appeared closer on several topics, a CTU document sent to members showed.

CPS agreed to let certain clinicians work remotely Wednesdays if they don’t have assignments, and high school teachers will be allowed to ask their principals to work remotely on days they don’t have any in-person students, according to the document.

The district also proposed coordinating with the union and the city’s Health Department to ensure students and families in the communities most vulnerable to COVID have local vaccination opportunities, and developing a plan for the summer and fall to use CPS sites for student and family shots, the document showed.

On the issue of schedules, the CTU update said CPS would not agree to move the district’s largest schools to a one-day-per-week attendance model to maximize social distancing efforts, though the document acknowledged that’s an issue at a “small number of schools.”

A majority of people who voted in a straw poll during Tuesday’s virtual CTU meeting — which had over 1,000 attendees — said they felt the union and district were close to an agreement.