More CPS Students Return to Schools for In-Person Learning

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More Chicago Public Schools students return to classrooms on Monday for the first time in nearly a year under the district's phased plan to resume in-person learning.

Students grades 6 through 8 return to schools Monday, after staff for those grades, as well as students in kindergarten through fifth grade returned last week.

Pre-K and cluster program students and teachers returned last month after CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union reached a deal to reopen schools after weeks of acrimonious negotiations over safety protocols, vaccinations and more.

The schedule for teachers and students to return is as follows:

Group/GradeStaff Start DateStudent Start Date
Pre-K & Students in intensive and moderate cluster classroomsFebruary 11February 11
Kindergarten—Grade 5February 22March 1
Grade 6—Grade 8March 1March 8

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. The district said that families who chose to continue remote learning will have another opportunity to return to schools before the start of the fourth quarter that begins in April.

On vaccinations, CPS said 2,000 pre-k and cluster staff, as well as staff who have medically vulnerable members of their household but were not given an accommodation to continue teaching remotely, would be offered vaccinations.

The district said it also agreed to administer vaccinations to 1,500 employees per week out of the city's supply at CPS' vaccination sites, and noted that staff at the city's 15 communities most impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible to be vaccinated through the city's "Protect Chicago Plus" initiative.

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 includes 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.

Rank-and-file members of the Chicago Teachers Union are voting Tuesday on the framework to return to in-person learning. Sandra Torres reports.

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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