According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the union walked out earlier this month because of safety concerns brought on by the rise in omicron cases. They demanded, among other things, that every student be tested for COVID-19 before returning to in-person learning. Under the terms of the deal, Chicago Public Schools and the union agreed to close school buildings if at least 30% of teachers in a given building are absent for over two days because of quarantine or positive COVID diagnoses. Schools will also close if 40% or more of the student body is in quarantine for COVID-related reasons. According to Yahoo!, universal testing is not required under the new deal.
"There were not many safety measures that were put into place," notes Melanie Collette of Project 21. "I'm not sure where the COVID money went, and if I were the teachers, I would be looking at the teachers union to answer that question and hold the district accountable."
According to the Sun-Times, 55.5% of the union members voted to accept the settlement after just five days. Collette believes many of the teachers wanted to get back into the classroom.
"It's much easier to teach in a classroom than it is virtually, contrary to popular belief that teachers prefer virtual," she tells American Family News. "I don't know any educators that prefer virtual. It's much more difficult."
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D), who is often at odds with the union, accused teachers of holding students "hostage" during the walkout.