Chicago Public Schools

CPS Set to Announce Return to Classrooms for Some Students, Remote Learning for Most: Sources

Mayor Lightfoot previously said the district sought to transition to hybrid learning in the second quarter, which begins Nov. 9

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Chicago Public Schools is expected to announce on Friday a plan to bring some students back into classrooms in the second quarter, but keep most students remote learning from home, sources told NBC 5.

The upcoming announcement will likely involve bringing pre-K and special education students back for in-person instruction, sources said.

The Chicago Teachers Union said in a statement such a plan "defies the science and puts thousands of students, family members and educators at risk from the deadly pandemic."

"The mayor's move to in-person learning also defies the standards that CPS itself set this summer, when the district said that the city should be showing fewer than 400 new cases daily based on a seven-day rolling average, or fewer than 200 new cases daily if those numbers come with concerning epidemiological factors like rapid increase of cases and inadequate hospital capacity," the union said in a statement.

An official announcement from the district is expected to take place Friday, but details on when that announcement will be made have not yet been released.

The long-awaited answers come less than one month before the start of the district's second quarter, which some hoped would mark the start of a hybrid learning plan for students.

Last week, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said a decision regarding CPS' learning plan for the second quarter would be coming "relatively soon," but declined to comment on the direction the district might lean in November.

"I don't think there's any doubt whatsoever that children learn best, particularly our youngest children with in person instruction," Lightfoot said. "Again, I will defer to CPS, but we've never stopped looking towards the future and what the possibilities would be, and we continue to follow the public health guidance. And I believe the CPS will have an announcement on that issue relatively soon."

Meanwhile, students have started an online petition against CPS, asking the state’s largest school district to reduce e-learning hours to just four.

The petition had more than 38,000 signatures as of Wednesday evening. 

At this time, CPS has no plans to reduce hours, but told NBC 5 that students don’t spend a full eight hours in front of the screen for e-learning.

“Chicago Public Schools built upon lessons learned from the spring to create a more consistent, high-quality learning experience for students that guarantees live instruction every day, which is something parents indicated they wanted. Strengthened standards and structures were needed to ensure students have access to the daily live instruction they deserve and we are deeply sympathetic to the challenges and competing priorities families are balancing during this unprecedented time.” 

Late last month, Lightfoot acknowledged that while remote learning is a "real challenge for everyone involved," she said "we're not there yet" when it comes to resuming in-person learning.

CPS began its new school year with remote instruction Sept. 8 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. In early August, Lightfoot said the decision to start the school year remotely was "rooted in public health," but at the time said the district sought to establish a hybrid learning model in the second quarter.

The second quarter is set to start Nov. 9.

The mayor said she knows "there's a lot of anxiety on the part of the parent," but it's important for the city to consider the health of principals, teachers and staff members.

"What does it mean for members of that school community? Who are over 60? Who have underlying medical conditions? Are we going to have enough of a robust workforce to be able to come back in person?," the mayor said at a news conference Monday.

This summer Lightfoot first proposed a hybrid learning model, with students in small pods in the classroom a few days a week.The Chicago Teachers Union put on pressure to continue remote learning, citing concerns for teacher and student safety amid the pandemic.

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