Chicago principals say they were blindsided by announcement some schools might offer in-person learning Friday

The announcement seemed to catch directors off guard.

The district tweeted On Thursday nights, activities and in-person learning may be available “in a small number of schools” on Friday. “Please do not plan to send your child to school unless you hear from your child’s principal,” the district said.

The Chicago Directors and Trustees Association said it was “shocked” by the announcement.

“Principals do not determine the resources and conditions that leave some schools ready to open and others not,” he said. “Principals do not want the demoralizing task of telling one school community why it cannot open while others can,” the group wrote, citing the opinions of more than 100 principals and assistant principals.

According to the letter, principals met with the school district on Wednesday morning, during which they were told that not only would schools be closed on Thursdays and Fridays, but that if Chicago Public Schools became remote or hybrid, they would begin. on Monday and would end on Friday. , January 14.

The school district has not made such plans public. But according to the letter, district officials reiterated to principals “several times” that schools would be closed on Thursdays and Fridays.

“Telling principals that schools will be closed this week and then taking us by surprise a few hours later with a public statement that principals will decide to open or close our schools on Friday is offensive and unsafe,” the letter says.

According to a press release that includes the letter, 75% of administrators agreed in a survey sent Monday that the school system should operate remotely for one to two weeks and in that time “ensure that the district’s return to learning in person is safe. ” But many were concerned about the part of the question that implied that schools could be opened individually.

Chicago Public Schools said one in 10 teachers showed up to schools “ready to work” on Wednesday and one in eight showed up on Thursday.

CNN has reached out to Chicago Public Schools for comment on the principals’ letter, but has not received a response.

The gap between the nation’s third-largest school district and its teachers echoes a debate unfolding across the country amid a Covid-19 surge fueled by the Omicron variant: When and how should students go back to the classroom?

Father: My son is the one who loses

Some frustrated parents feel that they and their children are caught between the two sides.

“We don’t know how to plan for the next 24 hours, much less the next 24 days,” Father Nolberto Casas told CNN on Thursday.

“They point the finger at the district, then they point the finger at the teachers,” said Casas, who wants students to learn in person. “I’m pointing the finger at my son, because he’s the one who ends up losing in all this discussion.”

In-person learning resumed on Monday, but the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) voted Tuesday night to teach virtually in his place. The union has said conditions for in-person learning were unsafe, citing inadequate staffing and testing as new Covid-19 cases and new hospitalizations among children reached record levels.
Chicago Public Schools, which has around 340,000 students, responded by canceling the school and insisted that the children should return to classrooms. The district said its schools were safe.

Chicago Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that while she understands that teachers are concerned, schools are not the source of the spread of Covid-19, adding that learning remote “isn’t likely to be something we can keep coming back to. over and over again.”

On Tuesday, the last day classes were held, the school system reported 422 new cases of Covid-19 among students and 271 new cases among adults, both record levels for the academic year.

Union president Jesse Sharkey said Wednesday’s teachers may not return to classrooms until Jan. 18 if the stalemate continues. Teachers can return sooner if the surge slows or the union reaches an agreement with city officials, he said.

A sign is displayed at the entrance to the Chicago Public Schools headquarters on January 5, 2022, in Chicago, Illinois.

In a joint statement, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools Executive Director Pedro Martinez said Thursday’s negotiations were “productive.”

Meanwhile, some parents say they are dissatisfied with both the union and the city.

“I am very disappointed in the Chicago Teachers Union for the scare tactics and negative rhetoric regarding this vote,” said Carolina Barrera Tobón, mother of a first and third grader in the district. “I am equally disappointed in the CEO of CPS and our mayor.”

What Parents Need To Know About Sending Their Children Back To School During Omicron

“CPS has dropped the ball on so many important decisions and the implementation of security procedures,” he said. “And honestly, I don’t trust the teachers union to stay away for just two weeks after their continued spreading of misinformation about the safety of our schools.”

Ryan Griffin, another father and founder of the Chicago Parent Collective, which encourages in-person learning, pointed out to public health officials that they have emphasized the importance of having students in class “above all else.”

“Instead of being surgical and quarantining certain classes in certain schools where the spread in the community is high, they are closing 550 schools serving 340,000 students,” he said. “That’s not the right approach; that’s putting a sledgehammer and chaos in a great district.”

CNN’s Omar Jiménez reported and Brad Parks and Bill Kirkos contributed from Chicago. CNN’s Rachel Burstein Parks, Raja Razek, Holly Yan, Theresa Waldrop, Steve Almasy, Carma Hassan, and Elizabeth Stuart contributed to this report.

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