Chicago schools closed again amid COVID-19 standoff

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Chicago schools are closed for a second day on Thursday as the teachers union and city officials are in a standoff regarding COVID-19 safety.

Classes were first canceled Wednesday after 73 percent of members in the Chicago Teachers Union voted Tuesday night to switch to remote learning due to the current omicron coronavirus surge, The Associated Press reported.

City officials blasted the union, saying school closures should be done at the classroom and school level, not a district-wide event as Chicago Public Schools is the third largest school district in the country.

"We know that our schools are safe. Yes. Do we have challenges across individual schools? Absolutely. Do we respond? Absolutely," Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said at a press conference Wednesday.

Martinez said 350,000 students are affected by the closure, but school leaders had "no choice" as not enough teachers would show up to open the schools Thursday. It is unclear if classes will be canceled on Friday again, according to the AP.

The district said it has used $100,000 to make classrooms safe to return and more than 91 percent of staff is fully vaccinated.

Schools across the country have avoided switching to remote learning due to the mental and academic impact it has on children.

"We'd rather be in our classes teaching, we'd rather have the schools open. What we are saying though is that right now we're in the middle of a major surge, it is breaking all the records and hospitals are full," union President Jesse Sharkey said Wednesday.

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