By JULIA JACOBO, ABC News
(CHICAGO) — 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.
At least 145 CPS teachers were absent Tuesday without official leave, ABC Chicago station WLS-TV 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.
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.
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”
“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.
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