After a nearly two-week pause of in-person instruction, the Chicago Teachers Union said early Wednesday that its members had approved an agreement to reopen classrooms in the country’s third-largest public school system.
More than 20,000 ballots were cast, with 13,681 members voting in favor and 6,585 voting against, the union said.
Under the agreement, prekindergarten and some special education students will return to classrooms on Thursday. Staff in kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms will return on Feb. 22, and students in those grades will return on March 1. Staff members in sixth- through eighth-grade classrooms will return March 1, and students on March 8.
“This plan is not what any of us deserve,” Jesse Sharkey, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said in a statement. “This agreement represents where we should have started months ago, not where this has landed.”
“We will protect ourselves by using the school Safety Committees created under this agreement to organize and see that C.P.S. meets safety standards and mitigation protocols,” Mr. Sharkey said. “Safety Committees will enforce this agreement, have access to information and the ability to change unsafe practices in their school.”
Ms. Sharkey criticized Mayor Lori Lightfoot over her handling of the situation and said that union delegates had passed a vote of no confidence in the mayor and school leadership on Monday night.
Ms. Lightfoot, a Democrat, and the union have been locked in one of the most intense disagreements over reopening anywhere in the country. The mayor has argued that the city’s most vulnerable students need the opportunity to return to school in person, while the union condemned the city’s reopening plan as unsafe.