Chicago Public School parents are having mixed reactions to the district’s new plan to bring some students back into the classroom before the end of the calendar year, just as COVID-19 cases in the city begin to increase again.
The district announced its plans Friday, the same day it announced that its pre-K enrollment has fallen significantly, accounting for 41% of the district’s total enrollment loss compared to last year. That loss is especially significant among Black and Brown students, the district said.
For now, CPS is planning to bring back pre-K students and those in cluster programs — which are for special education students who need moderate to intensive support — where attendance is also down.
Officials believe these two groups — pre-K and cluster students — are not well-served by remote-learning programs.
“The message that I have to parents is that I'm not throwing in the towel on in-person instruction,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said. “We’re going to do everything within our power to get our kids back in school, and we're going to do that safely.”
CPS says these two groups will return at some point in the second quarter, which starts in early November. They’re aiming to start bringing back elementary schools, and eventually high schools, in 2021.
Parents weigh in
Parents are in a tough spot. Those who can work remotely are often juggling their regular jobs with remote learning for their children, all while trying to avoid COVID-19, especially if there are grandparents or underlying conditions in the home.
We spoke with some parents who are very much in favor of returning to in-person learning, especially for the social and mental health of their kids.
Others are not as happy with the district’s plan.
In a letter sent Monday to Mayor Lori Lightfoot, the Grassroots Education Movement, an alliance of community organizations including those representing parents, said the district hasn’t done enough to make schools safer, and that it isn’t being transparent. They say that because the virus has been most detrimental to Black and Brown communities, they should be consulted about any decision to return to school.
Meanwhile, the district is giving pre-K and cluster parents until next Wednesday to choose whether they intend to return.
Follow Brandis Friedman on Twitter @BrandisFriedman
Note: CPS CEO Janice Jackson is scheduled to appear Tuesday on “Chicago Tonight.”