CPS High School Students Set To Return To Class April 19, But COVID Rates Are Rising Now

The target date for Chicago Public Schools high school students to return to class is less than two weeks away. But as CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reports, there could be a new sticking point.

Video Transcript

- The target date for Chicago Public high school students is less than two weeks away. Talks between CPS and the Teachers Union about making that happen continue. But has there been any progress? CBS 2 political investigator Dana Kozlov has left here now with an update. Dana, there could be a new sticking point.

DANA KOZLOV: Yeah, Brad. While that target date for return-- April 19th-- hasn't changed, the COVID positivity rate in Chicago has. It's gone up 2% in just the past couple of weeks, especially among younger people. And that could have a big impact on these ongoing negotiations.

It's been a month since Chicago grade schoolers who opted for in-person learning have been back in Chicago Public school classrooms. That after weeks of contentious negotiations between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union. While the tone of high school reopening talks is different--

JANICE JACKSON: I feel confident that we're going to meet that date, given the way that conversations have been going.

JESSE SHARKEY: I'm confident we're going to be able to get high school back, but like-- I'm also confident that it's not going to look just like normal school. We're going to have to keep the safety parts of it in mind.

DANA KOZLOV: Safety is still a potential sticking point when it comes to how-- or even if-- high school students will return April 19th. Sources say besides the rising COVID positivity rates, vaccine access for teachers, students, and their vulnerable family members are still critical to an agreement. And even though sources say both sides have not agreed on anything yet, some high school students are getting emails, like this one today, telling them when and on what days they'll head back into the classroom in two weeks. In this case, it would be on Mondays and Tuesdays.

CPS is proposing three models, depending on school enrollment, the percentage of returning students, and social distancing space per school. Based on that, students could return four days a week at smaller high schools, two days a week in two groups at others, and one day a week at larger schools. But again, sources say no deal about any specifics has yet been struck.

Another issue that may impact an agreement is allowing students and staff, all of them, to remain remote at least one day a week. That is something that CPS has been reluctant to do up to this point. Brad?

- Dana, is there any concern that talks again will turn contentious? Has it ever not been contentious? Did we just lose her? OK, we got her. I do like the rock motif, too, Dana. So, could it become more contentious as this imposed return date approaches?

DANA KOZLOV: Well, that is a possibility. And I want to apologize for my little camera holder falling over, there. This is my first time at home.

That's always a possibility as these talks ramp up, because the urgency to return is ramping up. But this time, Brad, I can tell you a mediator is involved. And that really could benefit both sides as the talks remain ongoing throughout the rest of the week and beyond, Brad.

- OK, mediator involved. Good sign CBS 2 political investigator Dana Kozlov from the [INAUDIBLE] room. Thank you.