Empty Classroom

Illinois teachers and other school employees could strike if school districts implement in-person learning without meeting safety measures outlined by government entities or medical professionals, two of the largest teachers’ unions in the state in a joint statement Wednesday.

The Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers — representing around 238,000 employees in public and private schools, colleges and universities in the state, including Chicago Public Schools teachers — said they will pursue whatever means necessary to ensure that schools have adequate safety protections.

“No avenue or action is off the table — the courts, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board — nothing, including health and safety strikes,” the statement said.

The unions said they believe some types of in-person learning are possible with mitigation strategies in individual communities. "But absent a practical safety plan that includes a clear line of responsibility and enforcement," the two groups are calling for the upcoming school year to start with remote learning.

Chicago Public Schools is seeking feedback on its hybrid proposal for the fall as the Chicago Teachers Union continues to vigorously call for entirely remote learning. Parents are split whether schools should reopen, though many are weary with lingering concerns about safety.

Announcements from suburban school districts range from fully remote classes to a partial return, though virtually all give families the option to continue online schooling. Several districts have walked back initial plans for some in-person learning, instead opting to conduct the semester online until further notice.

The two unions said in their joint statement: “We are working to ensure that any district providing in-person instruction in Illinois is prepared and able to abide by the safety measures outlined by the state, the federal government and medical professionals. If those measures are not met, we will do everything we can to protect our students and those who care for them — teachers and professors, bus drivers, classroom aides, secretaries, building janitors and everyone in between.

“No avenue or action is off the table —the courts, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board — nothing, including health and safety strikes,” the statement continued. “The entire weight of the IEA and the IFT will be used in whatever way is necessary to protect the students and the staff who educate them.”

(c)2020 the Chicago Tribune

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