About 40% of Chicago Public Schools teachers and staff who were expected to report to schools Monday for the first time during the pandemic didn’t show up for in-person work, officials said Tuesday, accusing the Chicago Teachers Union of “pressuring” its members to defy the district’s orders.
In all, about half of teachers and three-quarters of support staff returned to classrooms as expected, accounting for 60% of the 5,800 employees told go back to schools, officials said. The first two days after winter break last school year saw about 83% of employees present.
Those who didn’t report to work and elected to continue teaching remotely were sent emails telling them their absence was unexcused. CPS CEO Janice Jackson said that those who continue to ignore their orders will face progressive discipline according to the union’s contract, but that it’s in nobody’s interest to fire teachers.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey told reporters earlier in the morning that “there are a tremendous amount of concerns and many of our members are not feeling safe at all, are feeling more anxious and scared than ever.”
In a survey conducted by the union, 69% of members who did return reported conditions in schools that were “not adequate,” Sharkey said. Among staff concerns, Sharkey said, were “filthy” buildings, those in “various states of disrepair” and either missing or inadequate air purifiers.
Sharkey said the reopening won’t work if “the district simply continues to dictate to us.”
He called for solutions that include making mass coronavirus testing available; having a ventilation standard and a way to test it; a “clear” mask policy, telling teachers what to do if a student doesn’t bring a mask or refuses to wear one; consider delaying the start of school and “let the vaccinations proceed and then figure out a way to extend school, with a robust summer program or an extended year.”
The CTU conference call Tuesday comes a day after 5,800 staffers were expected back in school as part of the district’s phased reopening plan. Citing health and safety concerns and a lack of trust in the school district’s coronavirus mitigation protocols, some school staffers who work with preschoolers and students with moderate to complex disabilities declined to return to schools.
Troy LaRaviere, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, was also on the conference call Tuesday. LaRaviere said a survey of 300 principals and assistant principals conducted Monday found 29% felt they’d received enough support from the district to make “reopening work successfully.” Only 17% agreed that opening in January or February was the right decision, LaRaviere said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.