Par­ents, we’re pulling for you as the new school year looms

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

If you’re a par­ent of a Chicago Pub­lic Schools stu­dent, know this: We’re with you as Sept. 8 draws near.

We’re root­ing for you as you and your chil­dren be­gin an­other few months — at least — of re­mote learn­ing amid a pan­demic. It’s go­ing to be the trick­i­est of bal­anc­ing acts for thou­sands of busy par­ents, like you, to once again jug­gle work, child care and over­see­ing a rest­less sec­ond-grader’s on­line lessons.

You’re no doubt hop­ing and pray­ing that Chicago can rein in the coro­n­avirus enough in the coming months so that your chil­dren can soon get back to real school. Maybe you’ve al­ready cir­cled Nov. 6 on the cal­en­dar, the day that CPS hopes to get a green light from pub­lic health ex­perts to launch its hy­brid learn­ing model with in-per­son in­struc­tion two days a week for most stu­dents.

Get­ting stu­dents back to classes, even part-time, would be a huge step for­ward for kids. Be­cause last spring, all of us, es­pe­cially par­ents, saw first­hand how se­ri­ously re­mote learn­ing falls short.

This time around, re­mote learn­ing has got to be far bet­ter, from Day One.

CPS and the Chicago Teach­ers Union must pull out all the stops, put aside any petty dis­putes over the lo­gis­tics of mak­ing it work, and go above and beyond to make sure that hap­pens.

There’s no ex­cuse for a re­peat of last spring, when thou­sands of chil­dren failed to reg­u­larly log on to the district’s dig­i­tal learn­ing plat­form and hun­dreds of low­er­in­come chil­dren couldn’t go on­line at all be­cause their fam­i­lies didn’t have WiFi or a com­puter.

CPS on Wed­nes­day re­leased its plan to pro­vide a much more struc­tured re­mote learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that, as much as pos­si­ble, repli­cates real school: About four hours a day — fewer for young chil­dren, more for high school stu­dents — of live on­line lessons, plus small­group in­struc­tion or other learn­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for the re­main­der of the 7-hour school day.

At­ten­dance will be taken, let­ter grades will once again be given out, and teach­ers will have to be avail­able to stu­dents for a full school day.

Wealthy fam­i­lies across the coun­try have the means to keep their chil­dren on a solid aca­demic track. They’re pool­ing their money to hire ex­pe­ri­enced teach­ers to teach small groups of their chil­dren in so-called “pan­demic pods.”

For fam­i­lies of more mod­est means, school dis­tricts must make re­mote learn­ing work un­til a real “back to school” is pos­si­ble.

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