CPS par­ents have mixed re­ac­tions to part-time re­turn to class­rooms

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY JADE YAN, STAFF REPORTER jyan@sun­times.com | @jadelu­ci­ayan

Af­ter months of de­bate and guesses, Chicago Pub­lic Schools fam­i­lies learned Fri­day what school would look like in the fall — and they had mixed re­ac­tions.

Mayor Lori Light­foot and CPS of­fi­cials an­nounced their ten­ta­tive plan to put most stu­dents back in class­rooms two days a week, with re­mote learn­ing the other three days. High school ju­niors and se­niors will keep learn­ing at home full time. All fam­i­lies can opt out of in-per­son learn­ing for any rea­son.

Estrella Ce­deno, a 36-year-old mother of five and West Rogers Park res­i­dent, has three chil­dren in CPS. She said she thinks it’s too soon to bring stu­dents back to school and plans to keep her kids at home, even if the two-daya-week for­mat moves for­ward.

“How do they know [the kids] are not in con­tact with some­one with COVID when they’re not in school?” she asked.

Ce­deno ac­tu­ally con­tracted COVID-19 in March af­ter com­ing in con­tact with an emer­gency room doc­tor who had the virus. Al­though none of her chil­dren was in­fected, she called it “the worst pain I’ve ever felt in my life.”

“Even if it’s one day, I’m not ready for that,” she said of the re­turn to school. “I hon­estly would like re­mote learn­ing for at least the first se­mes­ter, un­til the num­bers go down a lit­tle bit.”

Ce­deno’s el­dest daugh­ter is start­ing com­mu­nity col­lege in the fall at City Col­leges, which plans to of­fer most classes re­motely.

“If it’s not safe for older kids, then why is it safe for lit­tle kids who can’t fol­low di­rec­tions that well?” Ce­deno said.

Cassandra Hatto, whose daugh­ter Sofia is a ris­ing ju­nior at Jones Col­lege Prep, said she ap­pre­ci­ates that CPS is “fol­low­ing the science” and keep­ing schools at low ca­pac­ity. She said she em­pathizes with de­ci­sion-mak­ers be­cause it’s dif­fi­cult to make plans that are ul­ti­mately “OK for some but don’t work for oth­ers.”

Hatto said that while she un­der­stands the con­clu­sion re­gard­ing ju­niors and se­niors stay­ing com­pletely on­line, she was sur­prised by it.

She’s able to shape her work around be­ing at home for her daugh­ter but is con­cerned about stu­dents whose par­ents are un­able to stay at home to help.

Sofia, 16, said that while she agreed it was best to con­tinue on­line-only learn­ing dur­ing the pan­demic, her big­gest con­cern in the fall was “not be­ing able to in­ter­act with teach­ers or peo­ple in class” and not be­ing able to work to­gether with other stu­dents.

Schaunda Hall, a mother of a stu­dent at Cather Ele­men­tary in East Garfield Park on the West Side, said at a news con­fer­ence with the mayor that the par­ent per­spec­tive is an im­por­tant one to con­sider as CPS ramps up learn­ing in the fall. CPS is hold­ing five pub­lic hear­ings and so­lic­it­ing in­put through a survey.

“When I think about goals and dreams for next school year for my lit­tle heart­beat, I think about ed­u­ca­tion and safety,” Hall said. “We have to be hon­est: COVID-19 is real. It’s se­ri­ous and it’s tak­ing lives.

“The plan to re­open schools should al­low for flex­i­bil­ity. It should be rooted in equal­ity. It needs to be pri­or­i­tized both with stu­dents’ aca­demic and so­cial and emo­tional needs. It needs to put safety first.”

PAT NABONG/SUN-TIMES

Sofia Hatto (left, with her mother, Cassandra Hatto) is a ris­ing ju­nior at Jones Col­lege Prep. She says she misses go­ing to school but isn’t fully con­fi­dent that it’s safe to at­tend in-per­son classes.

Schaunda Hall

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