CHICAGO (WLS) — The state of Illinois and Abbott Laboratories are teaming up to help Chicago Public Schools students get back into their classrooms, as a new school week looms.

The Abbott Park-based company is sending 350,000 rapid tests to the school district.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot tweeted to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, thanking the state for the tests.

This comes as negotiations continue this weekend between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union, leaving parents in limbo regarding whether classes will be held on Monday.

School has been out since Wednesday after teachers voted for remote learning, and there’s still no deal over COVID-19 safety.
“This is a solution to what we are experiencing in this moment,” said Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis Gates.

Teachers said they want to be in school but believe CPS schools needs to ramp up testing like local private schools have. The Chicago Teachers Union held a press conference Saturday afternoon to discuss their latest proposal to the mayor’s CPS team.

WATCH: CTU holds presser to unveil return-to-learning proposal on Saturday

The proposal requests that students begin remote learning on Jan. 12 before returning to in-person learning on Jan. 18, unless state or city health departments determine that conditions are not safe for in-person school at that time.

CTU’s proposal also requests that CPS randomly test at least 10% of the student and staff population every week at every school. That program would allow students to opt-out. The proposal would also require CPS to pause in-person learning for 14 days and transition fully to remote instruction citywide if the COVID-19 test positivity rate in Chicago increases for seven consecutive days, remains at 15% higher than the rate from one week prior for each of those days and reaches 10% or greater on the seventh day.

CTU members also requested that any school with 25% or more of its staff out due to COVID-19 cases or exposures for two consecutive days will be transitioned to remote learning. For schools with 100 or more employees, a transition to remote learning will take place if those cases reach 20%.

They also introduced rules for remote learning if student exposures reach certain percentages. Elementary schools would transition to remote learning if more than 30% of students are instructed to quarantine or isolate. High schools and departmentalized middle school programs would go remote if more than 25% of the total student population had received such instruction.

“We’ve heard all year that contact tracing efforts have been inadequate, that we are not catching cases quickly now, we are not notifying families quickly enough,” said Jennifer Johnson, Chicago Teachers Union chief of staff.

However, the latest proposal was rejected Saturday, in part by Lightfoot and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez.

Following the news conference, Lightfoot and Martinez released the following statement:

“CTU leadership, you’re not listening. The best, safest place for kids to be is in school. Students need to be back in person as soon as possible. That’s what parents want. That’s what the science supports. We will not relent.”

“Do you know the way teachers see that? We see that as bullying,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “We see this as an attempt to dictate all the terms and not listen to the people who are actually in there trying to make schools and make education work.”

This means back to the drawing board for CTU and CPS as Monday looms.

RELATED: Why are so many vaccinated people getting COVID-19 lately? | What you need to know

Lightfoot appeared on CNN Thursday night with optimism about the negotiations.

“There’s no reason why we can’t get a deal done this weekend and get our kids back in school, but there’s got to be goodwill on both sides,” Lightfoot said. “Everybody is talking about what’s best for them, but nobody is bothering to ask necessarily the parents or the kids. We want them in school.”

The mayor has ruled out a return to remote learning, despite some schools handing out Chromebooks this past week. She said in-person learning is still safe.

Both sides said they’re committed to being at the bargaining table all weekend. CPS said it will have more to say about the status of Monday’s classes, but already many principals are telling students not to show up.

A spokesperson for CPS released a statement that said: “CPS is committed to working toward an agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union throughout the weekend, and we are dedicated to working day and night so we can get our students back to school next week, hopefully on Monday. We know families need to plan ahead and we will be sending additional communication over the weekend with a status update regarding classes on Monday.”

Teachers have been demanding all students and staff be tested as a condition to return to their buildings before the Jan. 18 date agreed to in their vote earlier this week. The CTU has accused Mayor Lightfoot of refusing the state’s help with saliva testing.

The Illinois Department of Public Health said it made the offer over the summer, but CPS said it instead awarded a testing contract to a private vendor.

The union also wants KN95 masks, or those of similar quality, for all students and staff and contact tracing teams at each school.

RELATED | Teachers, parents raise concerns about COVID-19 spread as CPS outlines safety plan

Also on Friday, seven CPS families with students at 10 schools filed a lawsuit against CTU, accusing them of an illegal work stoppage. Some of those parents are unable to work from home, and some have children with special needs. Their attorney is seeking an injunction to force the teachers back into the schools, calling their job action illegal.

WATCH | CPS parents file lawsuit against teachers union

Teachers also said they want to be in school. The union denied that anyone has stopped working and characterized this as a lockout.

“We are just simply asking, do what suburban schools, do what Catholic schools, do what private schools have done,” CPS teacher Falin Johnson said. “They have tested, charter schools; they have tested those babies.”

“Our teachers, our parents, our students, we all want to be safe in school,” CTU organizer Linda Perales said. “The mayor can make that happen by stepping up and meeting out demands and ensuring safety.”

Meanwhile, parents and students have been hoping that the negotiators reach a deal soon to get kids safely back in school.

WATCH | Some CPS schools open despite standoff with teachers union

CTU argues with COVID cases on the rise, keeping kids and staff inside school buildings is not safe.

“When we came to school this Monday, I saw five times the number of students in quarantine,” said CPS teacher Jackson Potter. “We saw staff members getting ill, we saw lower attendance. This wave was already making a large impact, and we weren’t ready for it.”

As for parents, some said they understand the frustration felt by teachers, but they just want their kids back in class.

“It stinks to be at home,” said CPS parent Doug Davis. “It stinks to be remote. I don’t really want them to be remote, my son went through that last year as a freshman. It was a hard experience. Luckily he had sports but I think for a lot of kids it’s really, really, tough and just going into school is great but I want them to really be learning things.”

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Source: ABC7

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