CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago’s school district announced Friday that it plans to start vaccinating teachers for the coronavirus in mid-February, though it remained to be seen if that would be enough to stop the teachers union from voting to defy the district’s order to return to their classrooms next week.
Chicago Public Schools, which is the nation’s third-largest district, said in a statement that its mid-February rollout would be the beginning of a multi-month effort to offer vaccinations to its thousands of teachers and other staff members, who like educators throughout Illinois, will be eligible to receive the shots as of Monday under the state’s plan.
The announcement came a day after the union’s 25,000 members began voting on whether to back its leadership’s resolution to continue teaching from home in defiance of the district’s order for roughly 10,000 K-8 educators to return to school for the first time since March. The union’s vote is set to conclude Saturday.
The district is preparing for the return of about 70,000 of its students for part-time in-person instruction starting Feb. 1 — a full two weeks before the district’s vaccination program would begin. The roughly 355,000-student district has been gradually welcoming back pre-K and special education students, but some teachers have been punished for refusing to show up.
The union’s collective bargaining agreement, which was approved after a 2019 strike, prevents its members from striking and the district from locking them out, setting up a fight between a district that sees staying home as an “illegal strike” and teachers who want to continue teaching remotely.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, CTU attorney Thad Goodchild said the union wants to let teachers and other staffers continue working from home until they are vaccinated, with each individual teacher returning to the schools when they receive the first of two vaccine shots.