Friday Marks CPS Deadline for Parents to Decide on Return to In-Person Learning

CPS also announced Friday an average attendance rate of 73% of students who were expected to return to classrooms in recent weeks, a rate that the district said increased over time

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Friday marks the final day for Chicago Public Schools families to opt in for students to return to in-person learning later this year.

Forms were sent directly to parents and guardians, the district said, and the window to make a decision lasted two weeks, ending at 11:50 p.m. Friday. Any parents who cannot find their form should contact their school directly, CPS said.

The district said students who opt in can return to classrooms on April 19, the day the fourth quarter of the school year begins.

CPS recommended that any parents still weighing their options should choose in-person learning, as they can change their decision at any time, but those who choose to remain remote cannot later opt in and will have to wait until next school year.

Staff and students in pre-kindergarten through 8th grade have all returned to classrooms in recent weeks under the district's phased plan to resume in-person learning.

That plan was implemented after CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union reached a deal to reopen schools following weeks of acrimonious negotiations over safety protocols, vaccinations and more.

When the agreement between CTU and CPS was announced, there was no plan in place for high school students and staff to return.

CPS announced earlier this week that the target date for high schools to return will be April 19, the first day of the 4th quarter, though the teachers union later said there was "no agreement" in place on that date.

CPS said in January that about 20% of students opted for a return to in-person learning, with 80% continuing with remote learning for the time being. CPS announced Friday an average attendance rate of 73% of students who were expected to return to classrooms in recent weeks, a rate that the district said increased over time.

In its reopening agreement with the union, the district agreed to administer vaccinations to 1,500 employees per week out of the city's supply at CPS' vaccination sites. All education workers in Illinois are eligible to be vaccinated in the state's current phase of vaccinations, Phase 1B which began in January.

The agreement between CTU and CPS also included metrics to return to all remote learning if the pandemic worsens. The district will move to online learning for at least 14 calendar days if the city's rolling 7-day average test positivity rate: increases for seven consecutive days, is at least 15% higher each of those days than the rate one week prior and if the rate is 10% or higher on the 7th day.

Should that happen, CPS will resume in-person learning after 14 days or when the positivity rate no longer meets those three metrics, whichever happens later, the district said.

For individual pods, in-person learning will be paused when there has been one confirmed positive COVID-19 case and for individual schools, the district says it will implement a "school-wide operational pause when there are three or more confirmed positive cases in three or more different classrooms at a school within a 14-day period."

Students will also be required to complete health screenings each day, according to the district. The screening must be filled out by parents before the school day begins or by students when they arrive at school, and students must have a temperature at or below 100.4 degrees to be allowed to enter school.

Any student with a fever or any COVID symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or a lack of taste or smell, will be sent home.  

Disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and sneeze guards are all installed in schools for usage by students and teachers, with HEPA air filters also installed to circulate and clean air in classrooms.

The district said it will continue to grant approval for remote work for employees at increased risk for severe illness due to COVID-19 or for those who serve as primary caregivers for family members at increased risk. CPS said that other accommodation requests will be granted "when operationally feasible and consistent with providing a high quality learning experience to in-person students" and that any union member who is not granted an accommodation and is not fully vaccinated can take unpaid leave with benefits during the third quarter.

The deal also includes agreements on health and safety protocols (like health screenings, access to personal protective equipment, cleaning protocols and more), a plan for enhanced ventilation in schools, as well as the creation of a contact tracing team plus districtwide and school-level health and safety committees to oversee implementation.

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