Thousands of teachers reunite with their Pre-K and special needs students today after being physically apart since March, as all public school buildings shut down amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The remainder of students, K-8th graders whose parents have chosen to keep them home, will return in-person on Feb.1.

The continuum of this in-person reunion may come as a shock to some after news of an extended stay-at-home order was announced just this past Sunday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot, amid a 20 percent increase of cases just in the past week. 

The newest stay-at-home order extends through Jan. 22 and requests that all residents stay home as much as possible, asking that they only leave their homes for work, school, medical attention, groceries and other necessary matters.

The Chicago Teachers Union, whose wishes to remain home for safety purposes were denied, continues to bump heads with Lightfoot and the city of Chicago over returning to school this week. 

“If our bars, our restaurants aren’t open, where people don’t spend seven to eight hours a day — why is that you think it’s OK for us?” Shavon Coleman, a pre-K assistant at Lawndale Community Academy, asked during a Chicago Teachers Union conference call, WTTW reported. “Who wants to teach on eggshells? The first time someone coughs or sneezes, you’re going to want to go home. We don’t feel safe in these buildings.” 

Moving forward with in-person classes, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson made it clear that any employee who refuses to show up to school beginning today will be “deemed absent without leave and they will not be eligible for pay going forward,” according to WTTW.

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