Strike looms as Chicago teachers refuse to return to the classroom amid coronavirus pandemic
Chicago public school parent Amy Jacobson argues children are suffering ‘mental abuse’ by not returning to the classroom.
Chicago public school parent Amy Jacobson argued on Monday that children are suffering “mental abuse” by not returning to the classroom amid the coronavirus pandemic, saying “we are killing our kids mentally” with the school shutdowns.
Jacobson made the comments on “Fox & Friends” amid a standoff in Chicago as the public schools and the teacher’s union failed to reach a deal over the weekend to resume in-person learning.
Jacobson said teachers refusing to return to the classroom is about “their needs and not our children’s needs.”
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is ordering teachers to return to the classroom amid the ongoing dispute between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teacher’s Union.
“All teachers, pre-K through eight and cluster teachers must report,” Lightfoot said in a press conference Sunday evening. “If you don’t have an approved accommodation, we expect to see you back in class. Those who do not report to work…we will have to take action. Let’s avoid that.”
CPS CEO Janice Jackson warned that teachers who refuse to show up for in-person instruction will be kicked out of the district’s remote learning computer system, Google Suites.
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According to Lightfoot, the Chicago Teacher’s Union did not show up for negotiations on Sunday. Lightfoot said that she hopes union leaders will continue to negotiate and urged CTU to have “a renewed sense of urgency” in reaching an agreement quickly.
CPS’ original plan aimed for a Feb. 1 return to the classroom for in-person learning, but fell through after a vote by the Chicago Teachers Union last month instructed members to continue remote learning instead. In addition to 10,000 teachers, roughly 65,000 students were set to report on Monday.
As negotiations remain stalled, Lightfoot said parents should not bring their kids to school for in-person learning Monday, encouraging them to send kids to learning hubs offered by CPS. CPS said parents should aim to bring students back to school starting Tuesday, according to a letter issued to parents Sunday evening.
“We have been on pins and needles all weekend wondering what is going on,” Jacobson said on Monday.
Both sides pointed fingers at each other on social media Sunday, with the teachers union tweeting that its bargaining team was “instructed not to attend negotiations today unless our teachers, clinicians, PSRPs, nurses, librarians and other rank-and-file educators were prepared to make major concessions.”
“It’s hard because every day you have to check in with your children to make sure that they’re okay,” Jacobson said, noting that “we’re coming up on a year that some kids have had to sleep in their bedroom and then be in Zoom classroom for eight hours and they don’t socialize.”
“There’s social isolation,” she continued. “There’s no dances, there’s no sports. It has been horrible. We’ve had 40 suicides that I know of up in our area … and we’ve only had eight kids die from COVID and I’m sorry that those 8 kids died, but we are killing our children mentally.”
Last week, an Illinois mother of a teenager who killed himself during the pandemic, who is suing Gov. JB Pritzker over COVID-19 restrictions, told “The Faulkner Focus,” that her son “died because of COVID isolation.”
Lisa Mara Moore’s son Trevor Till, who was hoping to go to the state championships for pole vaulting in his senior year of high school but couldn’t because of coronavirus restrictions, committed suicide in October. Moore said she believes “100 percent” that the lockdown “changed Trevor from who he was to the person that did this.”
Moore joined the parents of three other student-athletes who are suing Pritzker over his decision to cancel the winter high school sports season, claiming their children suffered severe emotional and physical harm because of the restrictions, The Chicago Sun Times reported.
Jacobson argued that the teacher’s union doesn’t “care about kids.”
“This is all about power,” she said. “They come up with different excuses evidence every day of what they want.”
“One day it was, ‘We just need one vaccination,’ then the next day it was ‘we need both vaccinations to go back to school,’” Jacobson continued, noting that the union comes up with a “ridiculous” list of demands.
Jacobson stressed that parents are “sick of it and we can’t take it anymore but we don’t know how else to fight back.”
The Chicago Teacher’s Union did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
The union is requesting that schools reopen once all teachers have been vaccinated. In addition, they want medically vulnerable teachers or those living with individuals with compromised health to have the option to work remotely and for schools to provide guidance based on health metrics if schools need to shut down in-person learning due to a spike in COVID-19 cases.
Lightfoot explained that Chicago Public Schools have been working with the union to find solutions that would allow students to return to in-person learning, with more than 70 formal meetings since June and a $100 million investment in health screenings, temperature checks, personal protective equipment and regular cleaning.
In addition, she noted that pre-kindergarten and cluster teachers had been back in classrooms for three weeks without any major issues and insisted that the CPS plan has been vetted by medical experts including Chicago Department of Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady.
But CTU pointed out that, despite what Lightfoot and CPS say, the parents of more than 80% of Chicago’s eligible public school students have chosen to continue remote learning.
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The latest announcement comes after progress in negotiations was made on Saturday, with four tentative agreements on health and safety protocols, ventilation, contact tracing, and health and safety committees, according to Chicago Public Schools.
Fox News’ Lucas Manfredi contributed to this report.
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