CHICAGO — The debate continues about how students will return to school this fall Wednesday, as Chicago Public Schools’ reopening framework combining in-person instruction and distance learning continues to meet resistance from the Chicago Teachers Union.
Members of the CTU are pushing for full remote learning, arguing the city’s decision to scale back reopening plans lately suggests they shouldn’t be forced back into classrooms this fall.
“We are asking for the CPS and the mayor of this city to have a heart and to make sure that our students can be educated remotely until it is safe to bring them back into the building,” CTU Vice President Stacey Davis Gates said.
Teachers rallied outside CICS Chicago Quest High School Wednesday before making their way over to CPS headquarters ahead of a virtual school board meeting.
During the meeting, CPS officials laid out a reopening framework which includes a hybrid approach combining classroom time with at-home learning.
“I want everyone to understand that the plan we’re proposing is designed to adapt to changing public health conditions; if it is safe to do so we’ll begin our hybrid learning model on September 8,” said Dr. Kenneth Fox, CPS Chief Health Officer.
Only half of the student body would be in school at the same time, and students would work in pods of 15, with two consecutive days in school, and three days of at-home learning.
Parents and school employees would wear masks at all times, and students would be required to wear them outside the classroom.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Janice K. Jackson said there are many “diverse views” about what reopening could look like, and they plan on taking them into consideration.
“Things are changing every single day; the one thing that we do know is that COVID will be with us for awhile and we have a responsibility to figure out how to do school in this environment,” Jackson said.
But as Mayor Lightfoot starts to roll back reopening plans due to an increase in COVID-19 cases, teachers say they shouldn’t be forced back into classrooms.
“On the surface the plan seems ok, on the surface I want to trust in this plan because I want so badly to return to school,” Simeon English teacher Ariam Abraham said.
The teachers’ union says the reopening plan doesn’t guarantee student and staff safety, so they’re calling on CPS to focus on all remote learning.
“Give us the opportunity this summer to perfect our practice to connect on a deeper level with parents instead of rushing back into a school community that cannot accommodate the safety needs,” Gates said.
CPS officials stressed this is just a preliminary framework, and there’s still room for improvement. The district will be holding a series of community meetings next week to get feedback from students, parents, and staff.
They’re also encouraging people to participate and fill out an online survey.