Education

Union and district reach tentative agreement to reopen Chicago high schools after weeks of tense negotiations

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An agreement on reopening high schools is headed for a union vote that would allow Chicago to reopen its classrooms to students starting Monday as planned.

Both the union and the district confirmed the deal Thursday following weeks of tense negotiations. Teachers upped the pressure on the district this week by refusing to report to classrooms Wednesday and Thursday.

Members of the teachers union’s House of Delegates will weigh the deal at a meeting Thursday afternoon and vote on whether to bring the agreement to all union members for a vote.

If approved, it would end the impasse over reopening and clear the way to open high schools for the first time since last spring in the nation’s third largest school district.

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Among the city’s 72,947 eligible high school students, 35.6% said they would return, 45.3% declined, and 7.5%, or nearly 2,000 families, didn’t reply.

The union said three key demands drove the reopening negotiations: remote work accommodations, a shift in high school schedules, and a district guarantee of vaccine access for students and their vulnerable family members.

According to an internal union document shared with delegates earlier this week, the district agreed to ensure that students and families in the top fifth of Chicago communities most vulnerable to COVID-19 could access vaccines. Chicago Public Schools also will offer shots at district-run sites to students who are 18 years or older.

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The union wanted school officials to agree that teachers who have no in-person students can work remotely — the district said teachers could request remote work from their principals on days that none of their students were in person. Remote work allowance on Wednesdays — a day all students learn from home — was on the table for high school teachers but not elementary or middle. Employees who were denied child care or household support accommodations can take unpaid, job-protected leave through the end of the year.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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