More than half of Chicago public school teachers did not report to work as in-person classes resumed in the city this week.
Only 49.7% of the 5,000 teachers ordered to report to class on Monday actually returned, as well as only 70% of all paraprofessionals. It was previously unclear how many teachers had not come to work.
Chicago is returning to in-person classes in phases, with pre-kindergarten and cluster staff returning this week and K-8 staff returning January 25. No date has been set for high school students to return.
The school district says it will take disciplinary action against staff who continue to abscond from work.
"It serves no one's interest to fire teachers, so I'm not going to lead with that," said district CEO Janice Jackson. "But we do have a clear policy around expectations to return to work. We should also be reminded that thousands of individuals in our school system have been reporting to work since the pandemic began: our nutrition support staff, our principals and administrators, some central office staff, as well as security and others throughout the building."
The large number of absences is considered the result of heavy pressure from the Chicago Teacher's Union to not return due to COVID-19.
Chicago schools have been entirely virtual since March 2020.