By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Public Schools said Tuesday that they are planning to offer in-person learning for high school students, starting on April 19.

But the Chicago Teachers Union was quick to raise objections to the announcement.

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In a letter from CPS CEO Janice Jackson, parents will have the option to send their children back into classrooms, mostly with their assigned e-learning teachers. Teaching models will vary between schools, but CPS, working with the Chicago Teachers’ Union, aims to provide in-person instruction for “nearly all interested students” at least two days per week. It will be the first time high school students will return to school since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring.

CPS Elementary Schools have already reopened. Pre-kindergarten and special education students returned in mid January. 

CPS started the year with remote learning due to the pandemic and had been negotiating with CTU on a return to classroom instruction. Earlier in the summer, CPS was planning on a mix of in-person and remote learning, but backed off after objections from parents and the union.

“Providing high school students the option to safely return on April 19 is a top priority for the district, and we will continue meeting regularly with CTU representatives as we strive to reach a consensus that provides the smoothest possible transition for our families and staff,” Jackson said in her letter. “Negotiations are ongoing with CTU and we will continue to provide updates to families as discussions proceed.”

But the Chicago Teachers Union said there was “no agreement on returning to in-person learning in high schools on any date, nor will there be an agreement until we know our school buildings can reopen safely.”

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The union called the CPS announcement “more unilateralism from the mayor’s handpicked Board of Education — a way to publicly roll out a boilerplate plan created behind closed doors with no educator support, stakeholder engagement, parent input or student agency.”

The CTU said high school students themselves – many of whom have been in CPS schools for their entire time in school, should be part of the discussions.

“Instead, we just have disappointing business as usual from the mayor and CPS, and efforts to create a more collegial, professional dynamic at the table have been met with nothing but complete misrepresentation of the status of discussions,” the CTU said. “So we reset.”

The union said Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS must work with parents, students, teachers, and all others involved to develop a safe plan for returning to in-person learning – rather than setting a date for return and blaming teachers if problems come up in living to the plan.

The union further said it has no data on how many vaccine doses CPS has offered teachers – but it does know some teachers have had to miss daytime appointments because no substitutes were provided for their classes. The union added that testing protocols are not uniform for students or staff in many elementary schools, and said CPS and the mayor are ignoring problems with remote learning.

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Families can learn more at the CPS high school townhall tomorrow, Wednesday, March 17, at 5 p.m. Please register at bit.ly/HStownhall2 in advance.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff