‘The Kids Are Casualties in a War’

How students, teachers and parents were caught in the middle of a standoff between Chicago’s mayor and its teachers’ union.,

Produced by Clare Toeniskoetter and Rob Szypko

With Diana Nguyen

Edited by Lisa Chow

Original music by Dan Powell, Marion Lozano and Chelsea Daniel

Engineered by Marion Lozano


As the highly infectious Omicron variant surged recently, a high-stakes battle played out between Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago and the city’s teachers’ union about how to keep schools open and safe.

The union called for more testing and better masks, with 73 percent of its members voting to move to remote learning. When teachers then stopped reporting to their classrooms, Ms. Lightfoot accused them of an illegal work stoppage before the two sides finally reached a compromise.

We chart this battle on the ground in Chicago, speaking with teachers, parents and students about the standoff.


ImageArriving an elementary school in Chicago on Wednesday. The city's public schools have reopened after a dispute over coronavirus safeguards canceled a week of classes.
Arriving an elementary school in Chicago on Wednesday. The city’s public schools have reopened after a dispute over coronavirus safeguards canceled a week of classes.Credit…Scott Olson/Getty Images
  • The deal between the city and the teachers’ union included provisions for additional testing and metrics that would close schools with major virus outbreaks

  • As millions of U.S. students headed back to their desks, the coronavirus testing that was supposed to help keep classrooms open safely was itself being tested. In much of the country, things are not going well.

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The Daily is made by Lisa Tobin, Rachel Quester, Lynsea Garrison, Clare Toeniskoetter, Paige Cowett, Michael Simon Johnson, Brad Fisher, Larissa Anderson, Chris Wood, Jessica Cheung, Stella Tan, Alexandra Leigh Young, Lisa Chow, Eric Krupke, Marc Georges, Luke Vander Ploeg, M.J. Davis Lin, Austin Mitchell, Dan Powell, Dave Shaw, Sydney Harper, Daniel Guillemette, Robert Jimison, Mike Benoist, Liz O. Baylen, Asthaa Chaturvedi, Kaitlin Roberts, Rachelle Bonja, Diana Nguyen, Marion Lozano, Corey Schreppel, Anita Badejo, Rob Szypko, Elisheba Ittoop, Chelsea Daniel, Mooj Zadie, Patricia Willens and Rowan Niemisto.

Our theme music is by Jim Brunberg and Ben Landsverk of Wonderly. Special thanks to Sam Dolnick, Paula Szuchman, Cliff Levy, Lauren Jackson, Julia Simon, Mahima Chablani, Sofia Milan, Desiree Ibekwe, Erica Futterman, Wendy Dorr, Elizabeth Davis-Moorer, Jeffrey Miranda and Maddy Masiello.

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