Chicago Public Schools asks parents to weigh in on district’s reopening plans

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CHICAGO — A new survey is giving Chicago Public Schools parents a chance to weigh in on the district’s potential return to in-person learning Monday.  

Among CPS’ proposed pandemic plans is allowing a first wave of pre-K and some special education students to return to classrooms.

Due Wednesday, the survey asks parents to choose between “in-person” and “at home” learning and to select from a list of reasons for their choice, including “impact on education” or “health concerns.”

“I already filled out my own survey and I talked to the kids and they want to go back to school,” CPS parent Dina Hoevel said. “’We can’t wait to go back to school,’ that’s all I hear.” 

While the district says it’s just gathering information from parents, the Chicago Teachers Union argues parent may have different concerns about the pandemic and the survey doesn’t allow for nuance.  

“The survey as I have seen it doesn’t ask enough,” CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said. “The school district is trying to get yes and no answers, but we’re not living in a yes and no period of time.”

The position of the teacher’s union has been to keep all learning remote until they see what they deem to be a safe reopening plan for students, staff and teachers.  

The union has filed an unfair labor practice charge against CPS, saying the district has refused to bargain over reopening plans.  

“Our mayor and public school system has to be transparent and provide safety,” Gates said.

A spokeswoman for CPS said in a statement:  “we are disheartened that CTU continues to obstruct and mislead the public about the necessary planning measures needed to prepare for a potential return to safe in-person learning.”  

In a one-on-one interview with WGN News Monday, Mayor Lori Lightfoot offered her thoughts on the issue.  

“What we know is that remote learning works for some kids, but it doesn’t work at all for others. To me this is a simple matter of equity,” Lightfoot said.

Hoevel said after months of watching the union, district and politicians direct the debate, she welcomes the survey as a chance for her to raise her voice and ask for a choice.  

“I think people should have a choice; if the parents that don’t want their kids in school they have every right not to, but the kids that do want to go to school and their parents agree with it they should have the choice, that’s all,” Hoevel said. 

This all happens as the COVID-19 positivity rate is rising here in Chicago and across the Midwest. In fact, CPS reported 29 adults who were in school buildings have tested positive for COVID-19, the highest number since the start of the pandemic.

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