Chicago Public Schools is expected to announce Friday a draft of its plan for how school will begin in the fall.
The announcement, though only a draft, will mark a first look at how students may or may not return to classrooms.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Tuesday the district planned to release a "framework" later this week, but that the plan would be the start of a conversation between parents, teachers and other stakeholders.
Lightfoot didn't give specifics on what the framework would include but said "we've got to have maximum flexibility to make sure that parents have predictability, but they've got a flexible schedule that they can depend upon."
The announcement, however, likely won't include a definitive answer on whether or not Chicago schools will reopen classrooms for fall. That decision, according to Lightfoot, won't come until closer to the start of the school year, which begins after Labor Day.
"I think we would be remiss if we said definitively now, in July, when we've got at least six more weeks, a little longer before school starts, we're going to open or definitively now, we're not going to open," Lightfoot said. "Our metrics are pretty good and stable. Although we're concerned about the new cases that are growing in that 18- to 29-year-old cohort. That's a great concern and we're watching that, but this is going to be an interactive process. As we've learned over these last four months, this disease is unpredictable and it takes many twists and turns. We've got to anticipate and be prepared, but we're not going to know specifically until we get closer in time."
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.”
Chicago Public Schools on Thursday responded to the union's push saying the fall plan "will be guided by the best available data and guidance from state and local health officials."
"The health and safety of our students and staff is paramount," CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement.
Passman said - as Lightfoot has multiple times in recent days - that 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.
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.