Lightfoot said a public vote, in which tens of thousands of teachers are taking part, will take place later this week.
More than 340,000 students have been out of school for four days since teachers voted to teach remotely and the school district responded by canceling classes.
But the union said it wanted schools to be able to switch from in-person to virtual learning if Covid-19 absences reached more than 25% of school staff; 30% of primary school students; or 25% of high school students.
The mayor said keeping students out of the classroom is “unsustainable” — and not just because of distance learning difficulties.
Lightfoot said many single fathers are unable to go to work because they have to stay home with their children. Many children rely on school meals during the week.
What other school districts are doing
Across the country, many school districts are still struggling to reopen after the holiday.
In Atlanta and Cleveland, schools returned to in-person learning Monday after a week of distance learning.
But schools in Jefferson County, Kentucky, and Nashua, New Hampshire, closed to students on Monday due to staff shortages.
Milwaukee students were supposed to return to classes on Monday, but the school district decided to extend distance learning for another week.
In Baltimore, more than 50 public schools moved to virtual learning Monday due to staff concerns and a spike in Covid-19 cases.
“Decisions are made based on whether there is sufficient staff available to operate a school or the ability to conduct COVID-19 testing,” Baltimore City Public Schools said in a written statement. No decision has been made as to when students will return to those classes.
In Philadelphia, 91 schools are studying remotely this week following “Covid-related employment challenges,” the school district said.
Los Angeles students are scheduled to return to classes Tuesday, and the school district is in the process of comprehensive Covid-19 testing. So far, 50,000 new cases of Covid-19 have been identified, and these students and staff will have to stay home.
How did the confrontation begin?
Last Tuesday, the last day that students were in classrooms, Chicago Public Schools reported 422 new cases of Covid-19 among students and 271 new cases among adults — both highs for the school year.
That night, the Chicago Teachers’ Union voted to start teaching virtually. The union said insufficient Covid-19 testing and staffing contributed to unsafe school environments.
“All we ask is that we would like our students to test negative before they enter the building,” said teacher Brianna Humbright-Hall. “A two-week break (for personal learning) is not much.”
In response to the union’s vote on remote teaching, the school district canceled classes — repeating its position that children need to learn in the classroom.
CTU suggested resuming in-person teaching Tuesday, January 18, “unless (the Chicago Department of Public Health) or the State of Illinois determines that public health conditions are not safe for the in-person school at that time.”
Over the weekend, Lightfoot and Martinez released a joint statement saying union leaders were “not listening.”
“The best place for children to be is at school,” the statement said. “Students need to return in person as soon as possible.” “That’s what parents want. That’s what science backs up. We won’t relent.”
This isn’t the first time the school has been canceled due to an impasse between the teachers’ union and Lightfoot.
The deal also included more funding to reduce huge K-12 classrooms and more funding for recruiting and training.
Families caught in the middle
While the crisis between the teachers’ union and city leaders continued, parents and students were in limbo.
Cincinnati Public School parent Michelle Egan said students and teachers need to return to the classroom.
“During the holiday break, we’ve seen our teachers go on vacations and visit families. And they definitely should,” Egan told CNN Monday morning.
“But to go back to school after three days and say they don’t feel comfortable being in a class… We have to move on. We have to live our lives with this pandemic. And so we really want the teachers to get back to work.”
Haley Quezada is a teacher and parent at Cincinnati Public School.
“We’re on the mend. There’s been a lot of vacation travel. A lot of teachers have been quarantined, like me,” Quezada told CNN Monday. We need to respond to this sudden rise.”
“I think there should be a choice for both sides in this argument,” she said. “Those who want to go in person and who, for their children, this is the best option, should be able to do it. And for those who want remote control, we need to be able to provide them with options as well.”
Raja Razek, Steve Almassi, Elizabeth Stewart, David Shortel, Omar Jimenez, Keith Allen and Dakin Andoni contributed to this report.