In one corner was Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D). “They abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families,” she said in a blistering critique of teachers who refused to show up for their jobs in person. In the other was the powerful teachers union. “Relentlessly stupid, relentlessly stubborn,” Chicago Teacher Union President Jesse Sharkey fired back at the mayor about her stance on COVID-19 protocols that has forced a closure of the city’s public schools. Caught in the middle — the ones being hurt — are the more than 300,000 students in the nation’s third-largest school district who for more than a week were shut out of school and deprived of any kind of learning. The contentious standoff ended Monday night with a deal to reopen classrooms today.
At issue were concerns about whether it is safe for students, teachers and staff to return to schools for in-person learning as the highly contagious omicron variant drives record infections. After a fall semester in which schools saw relative success in getting students back in the classroom, the surge in covid infections has presented new challenges and complexities.
Some cities — notably New York and D.C. — pushed ahead (to their credit) with in-person learning, implementing tightened safety procedures.