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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 student were expected to be back in the classroom on February 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 vaccine availability.

The teachers union said their members “chose safety” as they continue to spar 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.

Less than half of public schools teachers in the nation’s third-largest school district showed up when ordered to return to school in early January, citing high community transmission and unsafe working conditions.

Some, in protest, taught remotely outside on the school grounds despite freezing temperatures.

“We cannot sit back and allow this generation to falter because of made-up reasons around why we can’t do reopening,” Janice Jackson, CEO of the Chicago Public School system, said at a news conference on Jan 5.

The school system has asserted that it is following medical data and recommendations from the state’s department of public health, and said that 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 Sunday statement. “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.”

Image: Ben KesslenBen Kesslen

Ben Kesslen is a reporter for NBC News. 

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