Chicago schools, teachers near deal to end classroom stalemate

CHICAGO — Leaders of Chicago’s teachers union have accepted the terms of a tentative agreement sent from Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration Monday night that would reopen the nation’s third-largest public school system later this week, sources close to the union and mayor’s office told POLITICO.

Though the deal needs to be approved by the broader union membership, the news marks an enormous step to resume school after four days of canceled classes in Chicago and a heated national debate about the safety of bringing students back to campuses during an Omicron-driven wave of Covid-19 cases.

The potential agreement would have the labor group’s members return to schools beginning Tuesday, according to an outline of the proposal, though in-person classes would not begin until Wednesday.

According to union and administration sources, two main issues that have slowed negotiations are determining the extent of testing — whether parents can opt-in or opt-out of having their children tested in school — and a blueprint on how to close down individual schools and pivot to remote learning in case of a Covid-19 outbreak.

The pending deal would commit the school system to secure the resources needed to test at least 10 percent of a randomly-selected group of students for Covid-19 at each school on a weekly basis. Students would have to consent to participate in testing, and school staff including nurses would be assigned to help increase the district’s testing capacity.


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