CPS announces all-remote learning plan

Mayor, CPS CEO say in-person learning won’t return until November

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Janice Jackson announced at a joint press conference Wednesday morning that CPS will start the 2020-21 school year entirely remotely.

Lightfoot’s and Jackson’s statement follows a rejected hybrid plan, which proposed that K-10 students return to school in pods. After receiving feedback from parents, students, and teachers, both officials changed their stances.

“I understand the uncertainty this pandemic has caused our parents, especially communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted,” said Jackson in a statement. “As a district, we value parent feedback and cannot overlook [the fact] that a large percentage of parents have indicated they do not feel comfortable sending their students to school under a hybrid model for the start of the school year.”

The new guidelines stipulate that remote learning will take place through Nov. 9, at which time the district will reevaluate the risk of students and faculty returning to classrooms. The fall plan will be more comprehensive than that offered this past spring. 

“There will be more of a traditional infrastructure that you see in a school setting,” said Jackson. “Attendance will be mandatory, the district will revert to normal grading, and educators can go to schools and teach in real time from their classrooms.”

Earlier Thursday, Principal Paul Joseph Powers sent an email to parents and students, which detailed how Jones will adapt to remote learning in the fall. 

“Jones will conduct the normal A/B block schedule with 90-minute classes. Normal grading and credit practices will take place,” said Powers. “Students will have a virtual Academic Lab, allowing them to contact counselors and hold club meetings. Each academic department [has] created a remote learning plan for the fall.” 

The decision to go all-remote comes only days after rumblings of a potential teacher’s strike, which would mark the second in a one-year period. In an unexpected change of tone, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) commended the mayor in a joint statement issued Wednesday.

Congratulations to the mayor for being willing to listen to the concerns of families, educators, community groups, and health professionals,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. “Now that [Lightfoot] has stepped away from a dangerous Trump/DeVos scheme to force in-person learning this fall, we hope she will embrace guidelines set forth by real public health experts….We need leadership in this city that supports the common good and provides the infrastructure to guarantee recovery for all in the era of COVID-19.”

Select health officials believe that partial reopening in the fall may be possible if Chicago COVID-19 cases fall under 100. Dr. Allison Arwady, Commissioner of the Chicago Public Health Department, believes that a school reopening plan is feasible but unlikely if this upward trajectory continues. 

“Over the last four to five weeks, we’ve added between 80 and 100 [daily] cases and not seen signs of that turning around,” said Arwardy. “[These numbers] make us concerned as we’re planning ahead for a complicated school district like CPS.”

Many parents have expressed concern over mental health during remote learning and advocate for partial reopening, while others, still, point to the safety and health liabilities of returning amid a pandemic. Though a controversial subject, Mayor Lightfoot stands firm in her choice to push remote learning into the fall.

“As we have now repeatedly said about every decision we’ve made in the context of this pandemic,” said Lightfoot, “we have to be guided by the science, period.”

Stay tuned for additional updates regarding CPS remote learning.