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It has been quite a year. Throughout the week, we will be revisiting our top 10 memorable moments and Union achievements of 2021, and looking ahead to where we will go in 2022. As always, safety will be at the forefront, along with love, nurture and care for our students and school communities.

Winter 2021 safe return reopening agreements

As the COVID-19 pandemic ground on, the fight for a safe and equitable reopening in both traditional neighborhood and charter schools centered our union’s work in 2021. Rank-and-file members took to the streets demanding Mayor Lightfoot employ maximum safety measures in our schools before reopening for in-person learning in the spring and again this fall.

In January, members voted overwhelmingly not to return to buildings and to continue teaching remotely until a safety agreement was in place. Courageous educators across the city braved frigid temperatures — and potential disciplinary action — teaching outside as the mayor tried to force students, educators and staff back into unsafe school buildings. The vast majority of families refused, and stuck with remote learning for the rest of the school year.

The courage and unity of our rank-and-file members secured a landmark agreement, and one of the best safety pacts in the U.S. for district educators and their students. It included staff and student vaccinations, a health metric, building safety protocols, classroom ventilation improvements, and importantly, safety committees to help enforce the agreement building-by-building.

Rank-and-file advocacy also helped educators at all 13 CTU-represented charter schools obtain reopening agreements. Members in our CTU-ACTS charter division have built tremendous power since merging with the Union, and they wielded that power at the bargaining table this year.

Charter reopening agreements included most of the demands our union has pushed since the summer, including: metrics for operational pause/switch to remote learning, ventilation improvements, no simultaneous remote/in-person instruction, opt-out COVID-19 testing, social distancing, 12-hour contact tracing and notification, and additional nurses and social workers. The charter agreements also include safety committees that members are using to enforce safety protocols in their buildings.

Just as we did nearly a year ago, we are calling on Mayor Lightfoot to provide leadership, and her CPS team to work with educators to support a healthy and stable return to buildings in January. Our agreements from last year would ensure safety now, but we need partnership in creating a safe environment for our students.

Please visit COVID-19 Safety Campaign on our website for the latest on safe return, including important member surveys, and information on upcoming testing events and all-member meetings.