School board locks teachers out of virtual classrooms, threatens to dock pay if they don't report to class

JULIA JACOBO
·3 min read

Chicago Public Schools has threatened to dock the pay of teachers who do not report to class as the school district returns to in-person learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school district reopened Monday for the first time since closing at the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, despite pushback from the Chicago Teachers Union, which claims that proper protocols are not in place to keep teachers and students safe from the virus.

PHOTO: Preschool students eat lunch at Dawes Elementary in Chicago, Jan. 11, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
PHOTO: Preschool students eat lunch at Dawes Elementary in Chicago, Jan. 11, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

At least 145 CPS teachers were absent Tuesday without official leave, ABC Chicago station WLS reported. About 6,000 students returned on Monday, but another 71,000 students are expected to return on Feb. 1.

Teachers have been reporting to class remotely every day because "their workplaces are not safe," Chris Geovanis, communications director for the teachers union, told ABC News.

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The positivity rate in Chicago is currently at more than 10%, with a daily average of about 1,036 positive cases, according to the city's website.

At least 100 teachers were locked out of their online portals as of late Monday, including those who were not scheduled to return to in-person learning until Jan. 25, "in an appalling display of management incompetence," Geovanis said.

PHOTO: A preschool student washes her hands before breakfast at Dawes Elementary School in Chicago, Jan. 11, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
PHOTO: A preschool student washes her hands before breakfast at Dawes Elementary School in Chicago, Jan. 11, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

Pre-K and special education teachers who were locked out of their Google classrooms are still finding ways to facilitate remote learning, according to the union.

"CPS is causing chaos to the students because they want to force us back into unsafe working environments," CPS teacher Linda Perales told the station.

Some CPS teachers who did report to the classroom held "teach-outs," bringing students outside despite the cold and windy winter weather, to send a message to the school district over safety concerns, WLS reported.

A representative for Chicago Public Schools did not immediately return ABC News' request for comment.

CPS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Janice Jackson told WLS that the district has spent more than $100 million to prepare schools for in-person learning.

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"We expect teachers to return to the classroom," Jackson said. "There is no reason for teachers to teach anywhere except in the classroom or the other places that have been identified by the district."

PHOTO: Pre-kindergarten students listen as their teacher reads a story at Dawes Elementary in Chicago, Jan. 11, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)
PHOTO: Pre-kindergarten students listen as their teacher reads a story at Dawes Elementary in Chicago, Jan. 11, 2021. (Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Chicago Sun-Times via AP)

CPS teacher Quentin Washington told WLS, "The mayor and her board of education is trying to paint a picture that teachers do not want to go to work."

"We are working," she said. "We are working harder now than ever before."

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Geovanis said the union is learning about outbreaks at schools in the last 24 hours, and that the cases appear related to "rank and file" educators being required to report to schools beginning Jan. 4.

CPS teacher Jenny Delessio-Parson told WLS that she believes the classrooms were not fully cleaned since last March and that there was "no clarity on the procedure of what it would be like to welcome students back into the building."

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"We have more than 370,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and we have a mayor that is adding a mandatory stay-at-home order in place, yet that order does not apply to teachers, students and schools," Washington told the station.

School board locks teachers out of virtual classrooms, threatens to dock pay if they don't report to class originally appeared on abcnews.go.com