Chicago Public Schools

CPS Working to Expand Access to Remote Learning for Students During COVID-19 Closures

Schools are currently closed through April 21, though it's possible that deadline could be extended

WATCH LIVE: Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will lay out the city's plans to help kids have access to remote learning in a 1 p.m. press conference, which you can watch in the video player above

The city of Chicago is launching a concerted effort to help students learn remotely, deploying thousands of new devices to help comply with new guidance from the state’s Board of Education.

With Chicago Public Schools out of session until at least April 21, officials are working to help students receive digital and non-digital instruction as part of a $75 million spending proposal approved by the Chicago Board of Education last week.

CPS aims to implement new remote learning plans on April 13 according to an email from city officials. The new learning plans, which will begin after the district's spring break ends, will include daily digital and non-digital learning opportunities, and schools will offer both digital and non-digital learning options to promote equitable access to instructional materials.

According to new guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education, school districts will be required to convert future days of suspended in-person instruction to “remote learning days,” and to help deal with that new strategy, Chicago Public Schools and City Colleges of Chicago are working to get new digital devices into the hands of as many students as possible, while also providing non-digital means of instruction to those students who can’t get access to computers or the internet.

CPS plans to deploy more than 100,000 devices to its highest-need students, according to the press release. An estimated 65,000 school-based devices are being moved into homes, and the district is allocating an additional 37,000 devices that were recently purchased through a combination of federal funding and philanthropic endeavors.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has reached out to two major unions in the city to try to help find child care services for hospital staff and health care workers. NBC 5’s Mary Ann Ahern has the details.

Officials say that the district does not have the resources to offer free internet access to families who need it, but is aiming to remind families that companies like Comcast and AT&T are currently offering free internet access to low-income families during the coronavirus pandemic.

Schools will be tasked with creating activities for students to take part in, and CPS will also provide “enrichment activities” that schools can build upon if they choose to, according to the email.

 “We will not allow this crisis to be an obstacle to our students’ futures and their dreams,” Chicago Mayor Lightfoot said in a statement. “It was a herculean effort to shift one’s curriculum to an entirely new medium, especially in such a short amount of time, and it’s a testament to the passion and commitment of Chicago’s entire education community that they have been able to do just that.”

During the upcoming digital learning push, grades cannot adversely affect a student’s standing in school, but teachers will still be able to grade assignments that are turned in by students. Teachers will be required to host office hours, while students will be able to reach out to teachers via email, over the phone or over the internet.

Parents can expect to hear from their schools by April 6 with more details of the new learning plans.

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