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CPS cancels classes Wednesday after 73% of teachers reject in-person learning

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez on Tuesday said he was trying to reach a "reasonable agreement" with the union on COVID-19 mitigation measures. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Chicago Public Schools canceled classes Wednesday for its more than 300,000 students after the members of the Chicago Teachers Union voted Tuesday night to defy orders to teach in-person.

The union wants teachers to be able to work remotely, but the school district is calling this a “strike” and Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the union’s actions “illegal.”

Union leaders said not allowing for virtual teaching amounts to a “lockout.”

About 73% of the union’s more than 25,000 members Tuesday night voted to revert to remote learning. Under the measure, teachers and staff would stay remote until Jan. 18 or until the city no longer meets metrics for all schools to move to remote learning laid out in an agreement in place last school year — whichever comes first. That metric called for remote learning if, among other things, the positivity rate was above 15%. Currently, it is 23%.

The school buildings will remain open on Wednesday for essential services, such as meals, vaccinations and COVID-19 testing. There will be no classes but CPS said staff will serve students who come.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said the district will communicate with parents about future plans.

The mayor and school district could lock teachers and students out of virtual classrooms, dock pay and file a grievance with the state. But that would likely prolong the fight and keep students out of classes for longer, which both sides say they don’t want. The mayor referenced “Groundhog Day” several times Tuesday night in a nod to a repeat of the late nights spent last year battling over remote learning and an agreement to return to in-person classes.

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