A Chicago school teacher showed up to his empty classroom, despite battling cancer and a union vote to not return to in-person learning in lieu of surging COVID-19 cases.
Joseph Ocol told CBS Chicago he believes he was the only teacher at his school on Wednesday when he showed up to plan and organize while the Chicago Teacher Union and Chicago Public Schools continue to duke it out over in-person learning.
The struggle between the two led to classes – both online and in-person – to be canceled on Wednesday and Thursday for almost all of the districts 330,000 students.
“Of course, I agree that there has to be safety measures, but it should be done in a sweeping way – because there are schools that don’t have COVID,” Ocol told CBS Chicago. “I miss my students. It’s just that this is a different situation, and I feel sad about this.”
Will other districts follow?:Chicago schools canceled classes after teachers refused to show up.
Virtual ‘walkout’:Chicago teachers vote for remote learning; city cancels classes for most of its 330,000 students
With around 25,000 members, 73% of the CTU voted on Tuesday to return to remote learning until Jan. 18 as COVID-19 cases are spiking due to the very contagious omicron variant.
“The city has failed to deliver a whole number of basic demands for what we need in schools, has failed to provide adequate staffing, adequate cleaning, adequate testing,” said CTU president Jesse Sharkey.
According to a tweet from the CTU account, teachers who wanted to connect with their students via remote learning on Wednesday were locked out of their systems by Lightfoot.
Despite the brewing fight, 10% of teachers showed up to classrooms across the district on Wednesday, Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez said during a news conference. Ocol was one of them even though none of his 82 students arrived in his classroom.
He told FOX News he wasn’t aware of any of his students or any of the teachers testing positive for the virus at his school. He also said he has nothing against CTU, but has “something against people using the union as a tool for political gain.”
“Despite my battling cancer, I still have a role to play right now,” Ocol told the outlet. “I just want to make my life relevant somehow. The thought that I can still be of service to my students and I can touch their lives and make a difference in their lives.”
Christine Fernando contributed to this report.
Follow reporter Asha Gilbert @Coastalasha. Email: [email protected]