“This decision was made with a heavy heart and a singular focus on student and community safety,” the union said in a statement.

Leaders of Chicago Public Schools canceled classes Wednesday after the teachers union voted to switch to remote learning due to the surge in COVID-19 cases, the latest development in an escalating battle over pandemic safety protocols in the nation’s third-largest school district, AP reports.

Chicago has rejected a districtwide return to remote instruction, saying it was disastrous for children’s learning and mental health. But the union argued the district’s safety protocols are lacking and both teachers and students are vulnerable.

The Chicago Teachers Union’s action, approved by 73% of members, called for remote instruction until “cases substantially subside” or union leaders approve an agreement for safety protocols with the district. Union members were instructed to try and log into teaching systems Wednesday, even though the district said there would be no instruction and didn’t distribute devices to students ahead of the union votes, which were announced just before 11 p.m. Tuesday.

“This decision was made with a heavy heart and a singular focus on student and community safety,” the union said in a statement.

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