Chicago Public Schools

CPS CEO Says Lightfoot's Goal of Reopening Schools in Fall is ‘Aspirational'

Mayor Lightfoot previously said the timeline for reopening schools will be "guided by science"


Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson said Monday that schools won't reopen until health professionals determine students can safely return, noting that Mayor Lori Lightfoot's goal of reopening schools in the fall is "aspirational."

In an interview Monday morning on MSNBC, Jackson said CPS leaders are doing everything in their power to make sure schools are safe and ready to reopen whenever the "go ahead" is given from health professionals and elected officials.

"No one wants to see children back in school faster than I do, but we also understand that it's critically important that we are inviting our students and our teachers back to safe environments," she said.

On May 8, Lightfoot said her goal was "to get our kids physically back in school," and that the decision will be "guided by the science."

When it comes to the specifics of reopening, a variety of new procedures or guidelines could be put into place, district officials said, such as social distancing, contract tracing and the use of personal protective equipment.

"What is it going to take in order for parents to have the confidence that when students return to school not only will they get a high quality education, but more importantly they will be safe in that environment, and that's what were focused on," Jackson said.

The leader of the nation's third largest school district also responded to the Chicago Teachers Union's assertion that Mayor Lightfoot hadn't discussed reopening plans with union leaders.

"We have been in collaboration with the CTU since the onset of this. They don’t have to speak directly to the mayor," Jackson said. "They’re speaking to the professional educators and experts around education on a regular basis."

While Jackson stated she was proud of the progress CPS has made in regard to remote learning, she worries about students' education being impacted, since they're not in the classroom.

"There's absolutely no replacement for in-class instruction with a trained, highly qualified educator," she said.

Lightfoot's plan to reopen city, which features five phases, did not specify when schools may reopen, but when asked about alternative options last week, like staggered schedules for students, the mayor said discussions were underway.

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