Chicago Public Schools

Future of School Sports in Question as CPS Announces Remote Learning Plan

"It's safe to say that if we can't have in-person instruction it's highly unlikely we're going to have competitive sports in the fall," CPS CEO Janice Jackson said Wednesday

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Despite the recent guidance from the Illinois' public health department and a revised schedule from the Illinois High School Association, Chicago Public Schools' plan to start the new school year fully remote could spell changes for athletes.

"It's safe to say that if we can't have in-person instruction it's highly unlikely we're going to have competitive sports in the fall," CPS CEO Janice Jackson said Wednesday, moments after the district announced it wouldn't open with a hybrid learning model as hoped.

Jackson said the district is awaiting guidance from the Illinois State Board of Education, but indicated previous guidance from IHSA may be revised.

"I think it's safe to say that those decisions are being revisited," Jackson said. "I'll wait to see what they put out."

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady has repeatedly said that the city – looking to see that case rate under 200 – would consider bringing back some restrictions, including potentially shutting down areas with a high risk of transmission or limiting group sizes, should that rate reach 400.

As of now, teams with CPS have not been practicing during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Pretty safe to say that's probably what the fall is going to look like," Jackson said.

The district is one of multiple major school districts in the Chicago area planning to start the year fully remote.

CPS' first day of school is scheduled for Sept. 8. The district said instruction will remain entirely remote through the first quarter, and at that time, district officials will determine if it's safe to employ a hybrid model in the second quarter, which begins on Nov. 9.

CPS said the district would release its plan in full, with specific details on instruction and requirements, in the coming days.

Late last month, the Illinois High School Association announced a "condensed" and new schedule for the 2020-21 school year, moving some fall sports to the spring and allowing others to continue as planned with restrictions.

Under that plan, boys and girls golf, girls tennis, cross country and girls swimming and diving will remain as fall sports, set to begin on Aug. 10. Football, boys soccer and girls volleyball will be moved from the fall to the spring, officials said.

“This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remains fluid,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement Wednesday. “Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year.”

As city schools prepare to move learning online this fall, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson addressed major concerns Wednesday for students and parents.

IHSA noted that by-laws do not prevent schools doing remote learning from participating in sports and other activities, but decisions to participate will be made on a school and district level.

That same day, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state will be "restricting youth and adult recreational organized sports," including school-based sports, beginning Aug. 15. The restrictions did not include professional or collegiate sports.

Pritzker said each sport will be categorized under three "risk levels" - high, medium and low - determined by "the amount of contact between athletes and their proximity during play." The risk level determines how much a team will be allowed to play.

"This isn't news that anyone wants to hear, but this virus remains dangerous," Pritzker said during his press conference.

The news is particularly difficult for Chicago athletes, given that last year's fall sports were cut short due to the Chicago Teachers Union strike.

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