With a strike looming, members of the Chicago Teachers Union were in cars on Saturday to show why they may not be in class on Monday. The union has beenover the safety of returning to classrooms during the coronavirus pandemic, with the union arguing that it’s not safe for teachers to return until they’re vaccinated.
That means recess will still be confined to Bridgett White’s backyard. Like so many other families, her dining room doubles as a classroom — and she said she’s “very frustrated” by the current situation.
Her daughter Brianna is in 7th grade and her son Tristan is in 5th. Neither have been back to school since March 2020.
“You got this one side saying one thing, you have this other side saying another thing, and you are in the middle,” White said.
An angry Mayor Lori Lightfoot lashed out Friday night, and vowed kindergarten through 8th grade kids will be back in the classroom Monday — despite a breakdown in talks with the teachers.
“[Union] leadership has failed and left us with a big bag of nothing,” Lightfoot said.
Union leaders say Lightfoot blew up negotiations after 70 sessions without an agreement on issues like testing, vaccinations, ventilation and protecting vulnerable people who live with teachers.
“They aren’t going to accomplish with bullying and threats what they can’t accomplish by looking at us and trying to make rational agreements with us,” said union president Jesse Sharkey. “We’re teachers, we understand how bullying works.”
This week, the CDC said in-person classes can be held safely, and President Biden said he wants all schools in the country to re-open in the next three months.
But what’s happening here in Chicago shows just how difficult that might be.
The city said it has put $70 million into safety improvements like air purifiers and plastic dividers in every classroom.
But White said she’s most concerned about the political divide and what it will mean for her family. “As a parent you are waiting day by day,” she said. “Is this the day my child won’t have any learning at all?”
White said she understands the safety concerns, and will keep her children in remote learning for now — but she’s wondering that they’re learning about being caught in the middle.
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