CPS RE­THINK­ING PLAN TO KEEP HIGH SCHOOL JU­NIORS AND SE­NIORS AT HOME THIS FALL

Chicago Sun-Times - - TOP NEWS - BY NADER ISSA, ED­U­CA­TION REPORTER nissa@sun­times.com | @NaderDIssa

Chicago Pub­lic Schools is con­sid­er­ing back­ing off a pro­posal to keep high school ju­niors and se­niors in full-time re­mote learn­ing in the fall as the rest of the dis­trict moves to par­tial in-class­room in­struc­tion.

Last week, CPS an­nounced a “pre­lim­i­nary frame­work” that called on most stu­dents to re­turn to school two days a week, but that had 11th and 12th graders start­ing the fall with on­line classes only.

But this week, schools chief Jan­ice Jack­son said par­ents should “stay tuned” on that com­po­nent of the plan.

“We thought that that was the best ap­proach, it was our best think­ing on that day, but given the over­whelm­ing re­sponse that I’ve been hear­ing from par­ents of 11th and 12th graders, that is some­thing that we’re go­ing to go back and look at,” Jack­son said dur­ing a livestream­ed con­ver­sa­tion with Ali­son Ar­wady, the city health com­mis­sioner.

Ar­wady said of­fi­cials would re­think re­open­ing schools at all if Chicago reaches 400 new cases per day. Chicago hasn’t had a daily case count over 400 since May, but health of­fi­cials have warned the city could be headed back in that di­rec­tion if pre­cau­tions aren’t taken. Chicago’s rolling seven-day av­er­age is around 230 cases.

Jack­son pro­vided fur­ther de­tails on the fall plan Wed­nes­day at the Board of Ed­u­ca­tion’s monthly meet­ing, the first held in per­son since Fe­bru­ary. Five board mem­bers at­tended while two called in by phone.

Jack­son said any par­ents who take the dis­trict’s of­fer of opt­ing their chil­dren out of in-per­son learn­ing will have to com­mit to that de­ci­sion for 10 weeks, or a quar­ter at a time, to al­low for eas­ier plan­ning of the 15-stu­dent “pods” that will be used. The dis­trict has al­lowed fam­i­lies to make that choice for any rea­son at any point in the school year.

Any stu­dent who re­turns to in­per­son learn­ing will have to quar­an­tine for 14 days be­fore go­ing back to school, Jack­son said, al­though kids who start in the pods at the be­gin­ning of the year won’t be re­quired to quar­an­tine.

CPS’ chief health of­fi­cer, Ken­neth Fox, said the dis­trict would work with the Chicago De­part­ment of Pub­lic Health to en­act con­tact trac­ing for pos­i­tive cases at schools. But the dis­trict won’t of­fer COVID-19 test­ing, leav­ing the ex­ist­ing test­ing lo­ca­tions in the city to han­dle those needs.

Stu­dents and staff will be re­quired to upload daily health checks be­fore go­ing to school, or one will be ad­min­is­tered at the door. Fox said stu­dents and staff who are sick should stay home.

“As the pub­lic health sit­u­a­tion in Chicago evolves, so will our plan,” Fox told the school board. “Should

COVID cases be ris­ing quickly, and the health of our stu­dents is threat­ened, we will pivot im­me­di­ately to a full at-home learn­ing model.”

If some­one in one of the pods comes down with the virus, that group would be sent home to quar­an­tine, but the whole school wouldn’t nec­es­sar­ily close un­less the virus spread to an­other pod.

The dis­trict is plan­ning to pro­vide three re­us­able cloth masks to ev­ery stu­dent and staff mem­ber in the city, and is pledg­ing to also send dis­pos­able masks to ev­ery school.

Chil­dren will en­ter schools through as­signed doors and once in­side will use as­signed bath­rooms. Lunch will be eaten in class­rooms, or in some cases when so­cial dis­tanc­ing is pos­si­ble, in the cafe­te­ria.

“The one thing that we do know is that COVID will be with us for a while and that we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to fig­ure out how to do school in this en­vi­ron­ment,” Jack­son said.

Out­side CPS head­quar­ters, where the meet­ing was held, the Chicago Teach­ers Union hosted a protest con­tin­u­ing its call for full re­mote learn­ing to start the school year be­cause of health con­cerns. Teach­ers said they were wor­ried their stu­dents and their own fam­i­lies could get sick if CPS pro­ceeds with its par­tial re­open­ing plan.

“I can’t ac­cept a plan that will kill my kids,” read a sign held by Ariam Abra­ham, an English teacher at Simeon Ca­reer Academy High School, who at­tended a union press con­fer­ence at CICS ChicagoQue­st High School at 1443 N. Og­den Ave. be­fore a car­a­van of teach­ers headed to CPS head­quar­ters.

After re­view­ing re­mote learn­ing en­gage­ment in the spring and hear­ing con­cerns through a sur­vey, CPS said it’s plan­ning ad­just­ments for the fall.

The en­tire dis­trict will be moved onto Google plat­forms such as Google Class­room and Google Meet, which al­lows of­fi­cials to mea­sure stu­dent en­gage­ment more uni­ver­sally. At­ten­dance will be tracked through the As­pen sys­tem.

Prin­ci­pals will also be asked to in­crease their mon­i­tor­ing of teach­ers and set “clear ex­pec­ta­tions for teacher en­gage­ment dur­ing re­mote learn­ing,” CPS said. In the spring, about one in five ele­men­tary teach­ers and al­most half of high school teach­ers logged onto a Google plat­form fewer than three days a week, the dis­trict said.

The dis­trict is promis­ing to of­fer teach­ers pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment for vir­tual learn­ing tools, as they’ll be asked to pro­vide live vir­tual in­struc­tion more fre­quently. Guid­ance will also be sent out about how to re­spond to stu­dents who refuse to wear masks or those who dis­rupt on­line classes.

CPS is also look­ing to im­ple­ment so­cial and emo­tional learn­ing sup­port for stu­dents to man­age stress and anx­i­ety.

“THE ONE THING THAT WE DO KNOW IS THAT COVID WILL BE WITH US FOR A WHILE AND THAT WE HAVE A RE­SPON­SI­BIL­ITY TO FIG­URE OUT HOW TO DO SCHOOL IN THIS EN­VI­RON­MENT.” JAN­ICE JACK­SON, CPS CEO

ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES

Ariam Abra­ham, a teacher at Simeon Ca­reer Academy High School, lis­tens Wed­nes­day dur­ing a press con­fer­ence out­side CICS ChicagoQue­st High School as CTU mem­bers de­mand that CPS opens vir­tu­ally in the fall.

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