CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools students will head back to the classroom on Monday when the 2022-23 academic year begins.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez shared his vision for ensuring a smooth transition for the upcoming school year, which includes an emphasis on classroom safety, afterschool programs and continuing to address the threat of COVID-19.

At the City of Chicago Club luncheon on Wednesday, the former San Antonio superintendent, who took over CPS’ top job last September, reflected on the challenges of the pandemic.

“It should come as no surprise that the pandemic would adversely impact the attendance,” Martinez said. “We saw more chronic absenteeism, [student’s] social and emotional growth. We saw more students exposed to trauma and their academic progress.”

Martinez believes that the pandemic also heightened the digital divide but says that CPS was able to take steps toward digital equity across the district.

“CPS was able to provide a device to every student who needed one,” Martinez said. “By the way, this will be going on forever. We will never have a student in CPS that doesn’t have a device or have access to the internet.”

As for COVID, Martinez said the district would continue to offer in-school surveillance testing.

Safety, Martinez said, is also a priority.

“Additional investments in personnel, equipment and technology to enhance the physical safety of our school building,” he said.

The city school’s top official added that he is confident that the new academic year is on track for more promising success.

“I’m very proud of what CPS has accomplished over the last year and I believe these accomplishments should give our families and communities confidence that the upcoming school year will be one of the district’s best years yet,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he would share safety plans for the new academic year with staff and CPS families on Thursday.

The first day of class is Monday, Aug. 22.