CHICAGO — Public school officials in Chicago canceled classes for Wednesday amid a clash with the teachers’ union, whose members had threatened to stay home in a bid to force instruction online during a coronavirus surge.
Union members had criticized the district’s response to the Omicron variant, which has pushed cases in the city to record levels, and said conditions in classrooms were unsafe. They voted on Tuesday to refuse to report to school buildings, just two days after returning from winter break.
But Mayor Lori Lightfoot said reverting to online schooling was unacceptable and unnecessary, and her administration decided to call off class altogether — keeping the buildings open for emergency child care — rather than return to virtual instruction.
“Nobody signs up for being a home-schooler at the last minute,” Ms. Lightfoot said. “We can’t forget about how disruptive that remote process is to individual parents who have to work, who can’t afford the luxury of staying home.”
they had asked for either universal P.C.R. testing of students and staff or a two-week transition to remote learning.
Pedro Martinez, the district’s chief executive, said on Tuesday that he would be more aggressive about shutting down school buildings if large numbers of staff and students there had coronavirus infections. But he pushed back against a districtwide shutdown, suggesting that misinformation was at the root of anxiety over reopening.
the Omicron variant produces less severe illness than earlier waves. As such, governments are focusing more on expanding vaccination than limiting the spread.