The head of Chicago Public Schools said the district will continue honing its remote learning program over the summer as it prepares for the possibility of additional classroom closures in the fall due to COVID-19.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson said the district is looking into a “range of options” because it remains unclear what learning could look like this fall, after the coronavirus pandemic shut down school buildings for the remainder of the current academic year.
“We don’t yet know, things are changing every single day, so we continue to monitor that,” said during a pre-recorded interview with “Chicago Tonight” on Thursday. “But we will make sure we have a fully developed plan in place for in-person instruction in the fall, and if we have to do remote learning, if that’s the guidance based on where we are as a country, then we’ll be prepared for that as well.”
The current school year will conclude on June 18. Classes are scheduled to resume in the fall on Sept. 8.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has stated it’s her goal to reopen Chicago schools for fall instruction, but that decision will likely be guided by officials with the Chicago and Illinois departments of public health.
While the state is readying to enter phase three of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s “Restore Illinois” plan on Friday, in-person educational instruction will not resume until phase four.
Jackson spoke to “Chicago Tonight” a day after her school district released new student egagment data during remote learning, which has been in place for more than a month.
Since remote learning began on April 13, CPS said the rate of students in district-run schools who participated in online learning at least one day per week has increased from 70% in the first week to 77% during the week of May 11.
The number of students receiving graded assignments has also steadily risen week to week.
Despite that growth, less than 60% of students participated three or more days during the most recent week. And rates of remote participation have been consistently lower for special education students, English language learners and homeless students. African American students have also had lower engagement rates than their peers.
Jackson said some of those discrepancies, while unfortunate, were expected early on.
“We know prior to COVID, students from communities of color have been disadvantaged and have had compounding issues that they have to face,” she said. “And COVID, it really illuminated our response to that. You kind of pull back the curtain on what’s going on and we get greater visibility in there.”
Jackson said this is the “most comprehensive” data set on student engagement, and now that the figures have been compiled and released, the district can better act to solve inequities among its most vulnerable students.
“If you had asked me six months ago how long would it take to stand up a program like this and create the infrastructure around it, I would have said 18 months to two years,” she said. “We’ve been able to do some amazing things in just a few short months and, with that said, identify areas for improvement.”