Both school districts which have been largely closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic storyline a return to peer learning, school and city officials are fighting what should look like in protracted union deals and lawsuits.
More than 70,000 elementary and middle school students in Chicago have been anticipated to return to schools this past Monday to get a hybrid version -- but they have been completely distant all week as Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) have yet to reach a bargain.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot expressed frustration Thursday with all the ongoing discussions, which have spanned over 80 meetings, stating during a press briefing that the marriage has"created chaos that we're currently suffering."
Chicago's public schools are largely remote because March 2020. Pre-K and special education pupils returned for in-person learning last month. The college system has spent $100 million in wellness mitigations for reopening, Lightfoot stated, such as venting, wellness screenings, testing, face coverings and enhanced cleaning.
"These colleges are open and secure, and we are prepared to welcome our students back," Lightfoot said, noting that the citywide COVID-19 test positivity rate is 5%. "And honestly, they've been prepared for some time. All we want now is to get the CTU leadership to get serious and meet us at the end "
"The ball is in the CTU's courtroom," Lightfoot said.
At a press launch Thursday, the union charged that the school district was holding up an agreement.
"CPS has been reject with CDC health metrics, refuses to allow educators with clinically vulnerable household members to continue to teach remotely -- even though most of the district and Latinx pupils will stay remote -- and won't make developments in remote learning, despite months of pleas from parents, students and educators," said the union, which represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel.
The town is working on a vaccination program for school staff, '' the mayor said. According to a document obtained by ABC Chicago channel WLS from sources close to the bargaining table, the district agreed to vaccinate 1,500 CTU members weekly, although the CTU is asking that that number increase as more doses become accessible.
Friday is a non-attendance afternoon for public school students, providing the sides longer to negotiate. Both CPS and the CTU are hoping to avert a strike, according to WLS.
In San Francisco, where colleges have stayed distant since March, the city has resorted to a suit against its own college district in an effort to reopen classrooms.
City Attorney Dennis Herrera declared he had sued the San Francisco Board of Education and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) on Wednesday, charging they have failed to come up with a reopening plan which fulfills state requirements.
"The Board of Education and the school district have had more than 10 weeks to roll out a definite strategy to get these children back in school.
School board members approved a settlement in November that could have begun bringing students back on Jan. 25, but the target date has been delayed by bargaining with district employee labor organizations.
The suit alleges that the plan doesn't meet state requirements to"offer classroom-based education whenever possible," especially for students suffering serious learning reduction.
"The information is apparent. Black, Latino, and Asian students, especially low-income students, have lost ground academically in comparison with wealthier and white students," San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement. "This is damaging the psychological health of our children and our families. Our educators have done an amazing job of trying to support our children via distance learning, however, this isn't working for anybody. And we all know we can do this safely."
The town allowed San Francisco colleges to reopen for in-person learning in September. Since then, over 100 private, independent and parochial schools serving nearly 16,000 students have returned to in-person learning.
Herrera said he intends to submit a motion on Feb. 11 asking the court to issue an emergency court order to direct the school district, which is regulated by the Board of Education, to prepare to offer in-person learning.
"It appears that the city attorney has not read through our plans or joined the hours of open meetings we have had on the subject of safely returning to peer reviewed learning," Matthews said in a statement. "It is simply false that the district and board have no plan to reopen schools. SFUSD has a very comprehensive plan with specific steps around health and safety and what in-person learning will look like for our focal pupil populations to come back when we could complete all the clearly laid out measures ."
Board of Education President Gabriela Lopez charged that the city has not heeded calls to provide schools support for surveillance testing to employees and pupils -- a claim which was echoed from the unions of San Francisco United School District.
"Rather than wasting our time on a lawsuit, the city and mayor could have done what we've been calling for all along, and that is to bring all of us together to finalize and implement safety standards and standards," the unions said in a statement.
The battles play out as President Joe Biden seems to reopen a vast majority of K-8 colleges in his first 100 days of office.
The administration said it intends to work with states and localities on ensuring schools can start safely by delegating teachers' vaccinations, empowering widespread testing and providing additional guidance for school administrators on things such as how to enhance venting and PPE.