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CPS classes canceled Monday but Lightfoot says CTU negotiations ‘must be concluded this weekend’

“Based on extremely limited staffing we are unable to open our school for instruction or activities on Monday, January 10. We are hopeful this impasse will be resolved in the near future,” one principal told families.

Whitney Young Magnet High School will not have classes Monday, Principal Joyce Kenner said.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

Classes are already canceled Monday for the vast majority of the 270,000 students in Chicago Public Schools unless there is major movement in negotiations between the district and the Chicago Teachers Union over the weekend, officials said Friday.

Principals at many schools, including some of the city’s largest high schools, notified parents throughout the day Friday that the return to in-person learning would likely have to wait as the city’s dispute with the union over COVID-19 protocols amid the Omicron variant surge threatens to stretch into a fourth school day.

“Bargaining sessions continued today and went into the evening. The sessions remain productive but must be concluded this weekend,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement.

Another statement from the district said officials want to get kids back in school “hopefully on Monday. We know families need to plan ahead and we will be sending additional communication over the weekend with a status update regarding classes on Monday.”

The district told principals in an emailed update to let families know there would be no school Monday, though “if an agreement is reached with the CTU over the weekend, we may reverse this decision and hold classes on Monday,” according to a copy of the memo shared with the Sun-Times.

At a press conference Friday evening, Tennille Evans, an organizer with the CTU, wouldn’t say if the union’s leaders and CPS were close to making a deal.

“We are ready, again, our officers are at the bargaining table bargaining as we speak,” Evans told reporters. “[We’re] ready to set an agreement on a safety measure.”

Students have been home since Wednesday after members of the union voted not to report to schools out of concerns over safety protocols during the COVID-10 pandemic, including whether all students should have to submit a negative coronavirus test before returning and how many staff or student absences would require a school to shut down.

The union has said it wants to return to remote work while until the current wave subsides, but the district has instead locked teachers out of their emails and other work accounts and told schools not to hold online classes. Martinez reiterated in a meeting with principals Friday that the district is holding firm that classes will only resume when the union agrees to return to in-person work, meaning no remote classes would be offered next week, the source said.

Whitney Young Magnet High School principal Joyce Kenner told families in an email that “based on extremely limited staffing we are unable to open our school for instruction or activities on Monday, January 10. We are hopeful this impasse will be resolved in the near future.”

Bronzeville Classical Elementary sent notice that schools would be closed until next Friday, Jan. 14, although Principal Nicole Spicer said she would “update BCS families if this date changes.” During that time, she said staff would only provide “independent work projects” and “would not distribute devices during this 8-day work stoppage.”

That timeline was not confirmed by the district and other principals only made reference to plans for Monday.

Starting Friday and into next week, schools which expected between 20% and 60% of their staff to report to their building were allowed to hold “academic enrichment” such as computer lab activities, sports, games, art, tutoring or writing exercises but no new lessons, grades or recorded attendance. Principals with 69% or more of their teachers expected to show could hold regular classes and record attendance.

Mount Greenwood Elementary on the Far South Side told families it has enough staff to resume full in-person classes Monday. Those who have COVID or have been exposed have to stay quarantined, but the rest can come in, Principal Mary Reidy said.