Special Ed. returns in-person Jan. 11

Several Jones Special Ed. teachers express concern

Photo+courtesy+of+Joshua+Blustein+%2720

Photo courtesy of Joshua Blustein ’20

Chicago Public School officials announced on Nov. 17 that Special Education (Diverse Learners at Jones) clusters will return to in-person learning in January.  

However, several Jones Diverse Learners teachers said there are “unanswered questions” regarding logistics and how safe it is to return to in-person schooling. 

As of Nov. 16, COVID-19 cases surged to a 15.7% positivity rate,  according to the Chicago COVID dashboard. The New York Times also found people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders are three more times likely to die of COVID-19. 

Last month, CPS announced a plan for Special Education cluster programs and Pre-K students to return in-person. The district postponed the return date on Nov. 5. 

“From the beginning, we were never actually given a start date,” said Jones Principal Paul Joseph Powers. “In other words, we weren’t told that starting on the first day of the second quarter, we’re going to be having in-person education. Instead, there was the gathering of the data with the idea of starting sometime during that quarter.”  

When CPS announced possible returning plans in October, ACES physical education teacher Carrie Roof said it was “news to everyone.” Roof also said she had unanswered questions regarding in-person plans and CPS nor the administration could answer these questions. 

“These press conferences and announcements, unfortunately, come out and we really don’t have any advanced warning on them,” said Jones case manager Kimberly Rebecca.

Rebecca said she wanted more information from the administration because she was planning to return in-person. Rebecca said she is responsible for writing IEPs, 504 plans, and coordinating necessary services for those respective students.

“Administration basically didn’t have a lot of information to share with us, unfortunately; they’re taking a lot of their prompting and their direction on how things are going to look from the district,” said Rebecca. “And, unfortunately, when the district made this announcement, they didn’t really have any details to provide to us, so that we could provide them to our teachers and also to our families.” 

Roof criticized CPS for vague reopening plans while they have been canceled or postponed twice so far this school year.  

“CPS has not necessarily done a great job of making a plan,” said Roof.  “[CPS needs to] have a plan for going back and because there are so many questions people just don’t feel comfortable.”

When CPS initially announced plans for in-person learning, they sent out a survey to parents who had children eligible to return. Powers said there were some students and some teachers willing to come back. However, Powers said he had unanswered logistic questions and criticized CPS’s handling of returning to in-person learning. 

“The biggest challenge for CPS, and this is true of almost anything that CPS does, is the huge range of the needs of schools and students,” said Powers. “We have high schools of 4000 students like Lane and elementary schools and even some high schools so they’re in the low hundreds [of amounts of students]. And then of course elementary and secondary and different parts of the city and so forth, so that the needs are so different that trying to come up with uniform policies across a system of 600 schools is…  Let’s put it this way, it’s a huge challenge.”