Teachers in Chicago public schools voted against returning to in-person classes, the Chicago Teachers Union announced Sunday.
Monday was supposed to mark the first day of school for a large number of the teachers, while students were expected to be back in the classroom Feb. 1, according to NBC Chicago. The union said in a statement that 71 percent of teachers voted to continue remote instruction as they wait for vaccinations to become available.
The teachers union said its members "chose safety" as it spars with the district about how and when to return to the classroom.
"We are not negotiating class size, benefits or staffing; we are bargaining for minimal risk of COVID-19 infection, and minimal risk of death," the union said.
Fewer than half of teachers in the nation's third-largest school district showed up when they were ordered to return to school early this month, citing high community transmission and unsafe working conditions.
Some, in protest, taught remotely outside on school grounds despite freezing temperatures.
Janice Jackson, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, said at a news conference Jan. 5, "We cannot sit back and allow this generation to falter because of made-up reasons around why we can't do reopening."
The school system has asserted that it is following medical data and recommendations from the state Public Health Department, and it has said tens of thousands of city's 360,000 students want to be back in the classroom.
"There's no doubt we all want to return to in-person instruction," the union said in its statement Sunday. "The issue is CPS' current unpreparedness for a return to in-person instruction, and the clear and present danger that poses to the health of our families and school communities."