CPS plan would pro­vide free child care dur­ing re­mote learn­ing

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

Chicago of­fi­cials are work­ing on a plan to pro­vide free child care for at least the first quar­ter of the up­com­ing school year as a re­turn to re­mote learn­ing is again ex­pected to strain work­ing-class fam­i­lies dur­ing the pan­demic.

Chicago Pub­lic Schools of­fi­cials are sur­vey­ing fam­i­lies’ needs as they fig­ure out the de­tails of the plan, which they say will in­clude sites across the city where par­ents can drop off their chil­dren to do their school­work dur­ing the day. The priority dead­line to re­spond to the sur­vey is Sept. 1.

To start, CPS says it’ll pri­or­i­tize chil­dren younger than 14, those liv­ing in un­der-re­sourced com­mu­ni­ties and fam­i­lies with­out a per­ma­nent home.

Un­der the po­ten­tial plan, stu­dents would be as­signed to spa­ces with kids of the same age group and an adult who will su­per­vise the chil­dren but won’t be an ed­u­ca­tor who could help with learn­ing.

The num­ber of peo­ple in each space would be lim­ited, and chil­dren and staff would be re­quired to wear masks, prac­tice so­cial dis­tanc­ing and com­plete a daily symp­tom screen­ing. Fam­i­lies would fol­low a stag­gered sched­ule and be as­signed a time to pick up and drop off their chil­dren.

Break­fast and lunch would be pro­vided ev­ery day, as would high-speed in­ter­net. Com­put­ers won’t be dis­trib­uted at the learn­ing sites.

Mayor Lori Light­foot and CPS CEO Jan­ice Jack­son have long said one of their big­gest con­cerns with re­mote learn­ing is that it leaves fam­i­lies with lit­tle op­tions for child care. Many CPS par­ents con­tinue to work in-per­son jobs to sup­port their fam­i­lies and can’t af­ford to stay home with their chil­dren while they com­plete school­work.

As far back as mid-July, when the city an­nounced its ini­tial plans for most stu­dents to learn in school two days ev­ery week, Light­foot said the city was look­ing into op­tions for child care sim­i­lar to a plan an­nounced by New York City Mayor Bill de Bla­sio that would pro­vide free ser­vices for par­ents of 100,000 stu­dents in that city.

It’s un­clear which adults would staff the learn­ing sites in Chicago and if the lo­ca­tions would be at schools or Chicago Park District sites. A CPS spokes­woman didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to ques­tions.

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