Chicago Public Schools on Thursday responded to the Chicago Teachers Union's push to continue remote learning rather than in-person instruction in the fall due to concerns over the risks of the coronavirus pandemic.
"The health and safety of our students and staff is paramount, and our planning for the fall will be guided by the best available data and guidance from state and local health officials," CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement.
Passman said - as Mayor Lori Lightfoot has multiple times in recent days - that a framework for fall instruction would be released later this week and a final decision would not be made until closer to the beginning of the school year.
"We know that families and staff are eager to learn more about the coming school year, and we appreciate that there are a range of needs and views that are valid and must be considered," he continued. "A preliminary framework for the new school year will be introduced this week to gain feedback from students, parents and staff, but a decision on the potential for in-person instruction will not be made until closer to the school year when we can fully assess the public health situation at that time."
"We are speaking regularly with union leadership as we work to develop the strongest possible plans for the fall, and we will continue to engage a variety of stakeholders to ensure our plans best meet their needs," Passman's statement ended.
CTU issued a call Wednesday to continue remote learning in the fall, as schools in Illinois and around the country continue formulating plans for the school year amid the ongoing pandemic.
“We stand for a safe and equitable reopening of the schools, but today COVID-19 cases are soaring instead of dissipating,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “There is simply no way to guarantee safety for in-school learning during an out-of-control pandemic, and that means we must revert to remote learning until the spread of this virus is contained.”
School districts in Illinois must develop their own plans for the fall under state guidelines, with social distancing procedures in place and new protocols like mask requirements and limitations on group size. Many districts have announced a hybrid approach to schooling, with students splitting time between the classroom and their homes.
Schools around the country are facing pressure to return to classrooms from multiple sources, including the White House - where President Donald Trump has threatened to withhold federal funding from districts if they don't bring students back in the fall.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has indicated that a decision on schooling could come in the near future, though the CTU is now pushing publicly for remote learning before any sort of announcement takes place.
“The mayor and school executives for both charters and CPS must begin to see parents, students, educators and other stakeholders as partners whose lives are valued – while the mayor’s ‘mitigation’ approach guarantees that lives will be at risk,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said in a statement. "There is no way to create a plan in this moment that addresses stakeholders’ needs and protects our children and the adults who care for them."