Students leave Darwin Elementary School in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago on Monday, January 3, 2022, the first day back to school after the Chicago Public Schools winter break.
Brian Cassella | Tribune News Service | beautiful pictures
Chicago public school leaders canceled classes Wednesday, closing more 340,000 students took place during the day, after the teachers union voted to switch back to distance learning amid a surge in Covid infections in the nation’s third-largest city.
The Chicago public school system is the first of the largest school districts in the nation to close amid the new Covid-19 outbreak. New York City Mayor Eric Adams stress earlier this week that schools will remain open. Los Angeles County schools have not returned to online learning, but are asking students and staff virus check before returning from winter break.
In Chicago, union members criticized the district’s response to the highly contagious omicron variant of the virus. In a release, the union argued that district officials “put the safety and well-being of our students and their educators in jeopardy.” Union members said testing resources were insufficient, and called on the mayor’s office to take extra safety measures to slow the spread of the virus.
But CPS officials fought back, saying the decision was unnecessary and upsetting for some families.
“No one signs up to be a home student at the last minute,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a news conference ahead of the vote, calling the action an illegal shutdown. “We can’t forget how difficult that remote process is for individual parents who have to work, who can’t afford the luxury of being at home.”
A spokesman for the union did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Chicago press official said the city will share a new plan for resuming learning late Wednesday.
Union vote comes amid Covid infection all-time high in Chicago. The city’s Department of Health on Tuesday said Chicago averages more than 4,000 new cases per day. The number of people hospitalized also increased slightly compared to the previous week.
Since the end of August, nearly 5,000 students have tested positive for the virus, according to CPS. During the same period, 1,802 adult school employees also reported cases. According to data provided by the district, the peak week for positive cases among students and adults was in December.