Talks between the city and the Chicago Teachers’ Union to continue over the weekend

The Chicago public school system, which has canceled classes since Wednesday, said it expected in-person learning again on Monday.

“CPS is committed to working toward an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Association throughout the weekend, and we are dedicated to working day and night so we can get our students back to school next week,” the statement said. , hopefully on Monday.” “We know families need to plan ahead and we will send additional communications over the weekend with status updates regarding classes on Monday.”

Lightfoot told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that she wants a deal later this week.

“Our kids need to be back in school. Schools are safe,” she said.

With classes resuming Monday after winter break, the Chicago Teachers Association voted to teach remotely, but the school district canceled classes saying they wanted to learn in person.

Union calls in-person learning unsafe, citing inadequate staffing and testing as new COVID-19 Cases and new hospitalizations among children reached record highs in the city.

Lightfoot told CNN that if individual schools needed to close, the city would do so.

“We’re doing that. And we’ve been doing that all year long,” she said. “So, it’s an unnecessary and illegal work stop and I’ve drawn the line. We’re not going remote for the whole system. It’s totally unnecessary.”

While district officials call the impasse a stoppage of work, the teachers’ union say it is a lockdown, as they want to teach from home until the current surge peaks, but the district canceled classes altogether.

Union representatives and city officials are negotiating terms to bring teachers back to their physical classes.

Union president Jesse Sharkey indicated on Wednesday that teachers would not return to classes until January 18 if the impasse continued. If the boom subsides or the union strikes up an agreement with city officials, the teachers may return earlier, he said.

A nationwide debate has erupted amid a rift between the nation’s third-largest school district and its teachers. A Covid-19 surge inspired by the Omicron variantWhen and how should students return to class?

On Tuesday, the last day classes were held, the school system reported 422 new Covid-19 cases among students and 271 new cases among adults – both record highs for the academic year.

Teachers union organizer Tenille Evans told reporters on Friday that teachers are ready to work “under safe conditions” and they are asking for “test, test, test” among other mitigation measures.

“All we’re asking is that we want our students to test negative before entering the building,” said teacher Brianna Hambright-Hall, “that a two-week break (in-person learning) isn’t too much.”

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Special education teacher Don Kelly said: “We need to get our testing in order, a real testing program, a real contact-tracing program.”

She said teachers continue to check on their students and send them school assignments “anyway we can”.

He said teachers are demanding basic safety measures.

Fallin Johnson, a second grade teacher, said she was concerned about the conditions in the schools for students and staff.

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“I want to make sure they’re safe. I want to make sure I’m safe,” she said. “I want to make sure that my daughters and my elderly grandparents are safe too.”

He also called for an emphasis on testing.

“So I want to know, when can we get these kids tested?’ Because we’re ready to go back in person when we’re able to see that they don’t have covid and risk their classmates’ lives or we ourselves.”

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Alison Arvadi told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday that she understands teachers are concerned, schools are not the source of the spread of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, seven parents with children in Chicago public schools have filed a lawsuit against the teachers union, calling this week’s action an illegal strike and calling for teachers to return to work for in-person learning.

The complaint is asking for “damages in the form of lost income and the cost of securing childcare while the CTU and its members were on strike.”

“The point of our lawsuit is that the union is involved in an illegal strike, and so they tend to be the sole judge on whether or not children go to school, rather than an engaged community and parents listening,” said the senior Attorney Jeffrey Schwab said.

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“Obviously if there is a situation where there is a classroom or school, it is not safe for them to go, I don’t think the parents want them to go, but what the union has done in this case is unilaterally shut down the entire district.” in,” he said.

Liberty Justice Center is a non-profit law firm focused on educational rights for students.

CNN has contacted the Chicago Teachers Association for a response to the lawsuit.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the Biden administration is in contact with Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Lightfoot to “assess their needs.”

“What we told you publicly and we told them privately is that the president wants kids in school, and we have the resources to make sure schools are safe for education…and students. ”

Jean-Pierre pointed to funding under the administration’s US rescue plan earmarked for schools, including $10 billion for testing.

Lightfoot said the city would do its best to help with the test given the current supply issues.

“We’re in a good place, I think, with both our governor and the White House,” she said. “But fundamentally … as you know, there is a lack of testing across the country. We are going to provide as much testing as possible.”

CNN’s Adrienne Broaddus and DJ Judd contributed to this report.

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