While a draft framework for reopening Chicago Public Schools classrooms has been unveiled, still many questions linger - including what happens if a student contracts the coronavirus.
Guidance released by the district calls for a hybrid model of learning that combines some in-person instruction and some remote learning from home.
At a news conference Friday where CPS officials detailed the plan, district leaders said the response to coronavirus cases within the school system depends on a variety of factors.
A single uninterrupted case involving in a student, Dr. Janice Jackson, CPS chief executive officer, said, would result in the student and their "pod" being quarantined for 14 days, and extensive cleaning would be performed.
Under the hybrid model, "students will be placed in pods of approximately 15 students during the school day in order to minimize exposure to other students and to support rapid contact tracing should a member of the pod contract COVID-19," the district said.
Pods will gather in assigned rooms with assigned seating, desks spaced six feet apart where feasible, and will use the same designated spaces in buildings, like the bathroom.
The district's response to a case of the coronavirus would change, Dr. Jackson said, if the number of cases were to increase.
"And if we started to see cases in, you know, potentially three pods, for example, sort of across different areas, within a short time period, we would make larger decisions at the school," she said.
The CPS CEO reiterated the district's top priorities of health and safety, and said the district will be aggressive in containing any risk for the coronavirus.
The Chicago Teachers Union issued a call Wednesday to continue remote learning in the fall, as schools in Illinois and around the country continue formulating plans for the school year amid the ongoing pandemic.
“We stand for a safe and equitable reopening of the schools, but today COVID-19 cases are soaring instead of dissipating,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “There is simply no way to guarantee safety for in-school learning during an out-of-control pandemic, and that means we must revert to remote learning until the spread of this virus is contained.”
School districts in Illinois must develop their own plans for the fall under state guidelines, with social distancing procedures in place and new protocols like mask requirements and limitations on group size. Many districts have announced a hybrid approach to schooling, with students splitting time between the classroom and their homes.
CPS launched a survey to gather feedback on the framework, which can be found here. The district asked families, students and staff to submit feedback by July 31.
CPS will also hold five virtual meetings, three in English and two in Spanish, throughout the month of July to solicit feedback.