Parents Protest Outside Chicago Teachers Union Headquarters After Members Refuse To Return To Classrooms

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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Parents in Chicago protested outside the Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU) headquarters Tuesday to demand the union not continue delaying the reopening of classrooms for high school students, ABC 7 reported.

The parents’ group said they were “disheartened” by the suffering that teenage students have endured after not being in classrooms for roughly a year, according to ABC 7.

“As parents, we are disheartened, seeing the pain that this is causing our young adults, who have had the hopes of returning to in person learning threatened again,” the group reportedly said in a statement.

Although Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and CTU agreed on April 19 as the date for teachers to return to in-person instruction, CTU has had other demands for the school. CTU President Jesse Sharkey said the school first needs to agree to a plan to vaccinate high school students, according to ABC 7. 

“It’s critical, we believe, that there be some plan for vaccinating high school age students, who are in many cases eligible for the vaccine, and their family members,” Sharkey reportedly said.

Other topics of negotiations between the union and the district include scheduling and how students and teachers will navigate schools. Younger students in the district were able to return for in-person instruction in February and early March, but a reopening date for grades 9-12 is to be determined, according to CPS’s website

CTU officials said they had a long day of negotiations Tuesday, but as of Wednesday, no agreement to return to classrooms had been reached, ABC 7 reported. As of Wednesday, only one in four high school students in the district are able to return on Monday, although 44% of high school parents want their children to return to classrooms, a CPS survey showed, according to ABC 7.

“We’re not going in tomorrow,” Sharkey said, according to ABC 7. “We’re not going into the buildings. We’ll still teach, but we’re not going into the buildings to do it, unless we have a reopening agreement.”

Teachers were back to remote instruction Wednesday after spending the two previous days preparing schools for students to return, ABC 7 reported

Parents have grown impatient with CTU, and have implored the union to stick with the April 19 reopening date.

“CTU, stop the delays and focus on education solutions for our children,” Nancy Griffin, a member of the Chicago Parents Collective, said, according to ABC 7.

 “CPS, all we’re asking for is that next week, on April 19th, as planned, our high schoolers can put on their backpacks and walk into the classrooms that they’ve been missing for over a year. They need it. We need it. The community needs it. Chicago needs it.”

CTU and CPS have been involved in tense negotiations for months. In March, CTU instructed its members not to reveal if they have been vaccinated, although the district tried to make vaccination easier for teachers and staff by tracking vaccinations. (RELATED: Chicago Union Stalls Reopening By Telling Teachers Not To Reveal If They Were Vaccinated)

Parents have not been the only critics of the CTU. Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot accused CTU of putting politics before students. “When you have unions that have other aspirations beyond being a union, and maybe being something akin to a political party, then there’s always going to be conflict,” she said. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a guidance recommending schools reopen, so long as certain precautions are in place. The agency said teachers do not need to be vaccinated in order for schools to reopen.