CHICAGO (CBS) — The head of the country’s third largest school district said if the Chicago Teachers Union votes for remote learning and not to return, schools will be open but there will be no classes.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said teachers, staff and students are welcome to come to classrooms.

READ MORE: Chicago Teachers Union To Vote On Remote Learning For CPS Students Amid COVID-19 Surge

“If they do take a vote to do a walkout tomorrow, I have to cancel classes,” Martinez said. “I am not closing the schools. The schools are going to be open. And so again, all staff will be welcome to come to school because we are going to have a plan for our families. I am not going to let our parents down.”

Martinez added “we will have a plan tomorrow. We’re going to create a plan that’s best for family to the students not based on anything else. And so what I can commit to families is that if they take an action to do a walkout, I have to cancel classes tomorrow. I’m sorry about that. You will have a plan tomorrow we will see how we move forward.”

He said he understood why parents may be uncomfortable with that idea, with the COVID Omicron surge, but cited misinformation as to the safety of school buildings.

“At this point, the misinformation and anxiety is so high and I saw it firsthand. I was visiting schools I wanted to get a sense myself. What I was seen. And like I said, in some schools, it is just at an extreme level to the point where there is no logic behind it. There’s no science behind it,” Martinez said.

As the Omicron surge grips Chicago, the head of city’s health and the CEO of the city’s public schools said students need to be in school, as it’s a very safe space.

“We need kids to get vaccinated, but I remain extremely comfortable with children continuing in person education,” said Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH.)

The Chicago Teachers Union is voting Tuesday – asking its members if they support staying out of the classroom until they feel it is safe to return.

“Until we do this – draw a line in the snow – then they react,” said Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy David Gates.

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Dr. Pedro Martinez said he applauded the way the city had the schools ready for students to return after the holiday break.

“There was a great decision to invest in the schools in the filtration systems. There was a great decision to have masks available for every single child for every single staff person. It was a great decision to prioritize vaccinations for a staff and actually to ask every step to get vaccinated. All those decisions are paid off. There was never a need for any kind of agreement. I think the the challenge that I would I wish if I had a magic wand, I wish all of us were providing good information to families,” Martinez said.

Martinez would not directly identify CTU for being a source of that misinformation, but said some of that misinformation centers around schools not being safe.

“The biggest misinformation that I see right now that I can tell you is complete myths about our schools, our schools being unsafe. completeness, that we’re seeing high levels of completion across the school across classrooms,” Martinez said.

CPS parent Sharon Winkfield said children should be learning remotely with the rise in COVID-19 cases. Winkfield also said remote learning shouldn’t mean a student’s attendance record is impacted.

“Why must our families choose between being marked absent and bringing their child to school when this disease is running rampant?” Winkfield said. “To ask us to choose between punishment and safety – please. I mean, we love our children, and we want them to stay alive. We want them to be here. We want them to get a good education, but they can’t do that if they’re dead.”

On Tuesday, Dr. Awady said the high number of COVID cases in the city is alarming.

“We continue to be in the very high transmission category for cases averaging now over 4,500 per day. We also have a test positivity of 23.6% in the city of Chicago,” Arwady said. “The news is not good. The COVID case rate in Chicago is the highest it has been since the beginning of the pandemic.”

Doctor Arwady added that the best defense against COVID-19 and the Omicron variant is getting vaccinated. She said she too is hearing a lot of misinformation regarding children and COVID infections.

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“One of the things I’m hearing the most misinformation about is that Chicago hospitals are filling up with children, that many Chicago children are dying of COVID that it’s a really scary time to be a child right now with COVID in Chicago And I want you to understand that well of course we are concerned about the rise in hospitalizations that is being driven by unvaccinated adults,” Arwady said. “Child COVID hospitalizations remain very rare across the whole city approximately 550,000 children. We are averaging just seven COVID hospitalizations a day right now for children ages zero to 17.”

Source: CBS Chicago

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