CPS Unveils Remote Learning Plan for Kids During COVID-19 Pandemic

With students at home for at least three more weeks, Chicago Public Schools announced its new remote learning plan, which includes digital instruction options, virtual office hours with teachers and livestreamed lesson plans during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS leaders on Monday unveiled the new instruction plan for the school district, which will include the distribution of 100,000 technology devices to the highest-need families as well as both online and non-digital learning activities.

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“This is uncharted territory for all of us,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said, “but I want CPS families to know that the school system has a solid plan in place to ensure that learning is continuous.”

The program is based around flexibility, CPS said, with the district giving individual schools the ability to either develop their own learning plans based on their community needs or adapt district-provided enrichment activities.

While students are expected to complete assignments and schools will be able to grade work, those grades cannot negatively impact any student’s academic standing, the district said. Incomplete assignments will need to be made up following the remote learning period.

Teachers are expected to be available to their students for four hours each school day to offer academic support. They’ll also provide “office hours” to students either virtually or via phone or email to answer questions and offer general academic support.

“So what you’ll see in the plan is different ways to engage students,” CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade told WTTW News in a phone interview, “whether it be livestreaming lessons, whether it be web conferencing or providing project-based learning for students, skill development lessons for students.”

Students without access to the internet or the technology needed to follow those activities will be able to pick up grade-specific content packages at their school’s food distribution sites. CPS said those packages will be updated with new content every two weeks throughout the closure.

But in an effort to bridge its technological divide, CPS said it will be distributing 65,000 school-based devices and another 37,000 recently purchased devices to families citywide.

“It’s going to be a complex process,” McDade said. “We don’t have everything all fleshed out, but we are going to prioritize the highest needs in this.”

In making those determinations, CPS is looking at free and reduced lunch rates, the city's community hardship index data, school demographic data and homeless rates as well as students with Individualized Education Programs.

The district is also prioritizing devices for students in college credit-bearing courses who need devices to continue their learning.

Beyond remote learning, Jackson said CPS will have additional guidance in the coming weeks for students who are moving from eighth grade into high school, or high school into college.

The district’s remote learning plan is set to take effect April 13, just a week before CPS students are currently set to return to their classrooms on April 21. McDade said she’s hopeful students are back in class as soon as possible, but added that district leaders “know what is ahead of us.”

“Here’s where we are: we want to make sure that considering the pandemic that we’re experiencing, that’s unprecedented and challenging and complex, we want to make sure that we’re prepared for whatever comes down the pipeline,” she said.

“We put out a comprehensive plan that would get us to the 21st and if, in fact, we’re in a space where we’re not able to return, this plan would also be able to inform schools how to move forward if that closure should be extended.”

Contact Matt Masterson: @ByMattMasterson | [email protected] | (773) 509-5431

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