CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools students will start remote learning April 13, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday in a sign schools could stay closed longer than originally expected.
Schools are closed through at least April 20 for CPS students as officials try to halt the spread of coronavirus in Chicago, Lightfoot said during a March 19 address to the city. There hasn’t yet been an official announcement if schools will be closed for longer.
But the city, which previously had no plans for daily instruction and instead gave children packets on optional enrichment opportunities, has now said students will start daily learning activities with teachers on April 13.
“As we have all learned by now, COVID-19 is unpredictable and we must ensure that we have structures in place to support all of our students no matter how long this closure endures,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said. “This is unchartered territory for all of us, but I want CPS families to know the school system has a solid plan in place to ensure” learning continues.
The district is also sending out digital devices to its “highest-need students” so they can participate in online learning opportunities, according to the Mayor’s Office. More than 100,000 devices — including laptops and tablets — will be sent to homes, and Comcast and AT&T are offering free to internet to high-need families.
Schools will design their own remote learning plans and tell families about them by April 6.
The plans will include daily digital and non-digital learning activities for students, and teachers will provide weekly feedback to students, Lightfoot said at a Monday news conference.
Teachers will be available to students and their families up to four hours per school day. They’ll host activities with students, doing things like streaming mini-lessons, reading books and hosting digital discussions. They will also have “office hours” where teachers and families can contact them virtually, over the phone or via email to talk, get academic support and ask questions.
Students will be expected to complete assignments and teachers can grade their work, but the grades cannot negatively impact a student’s academic standing. Incomplete assignments will be made up after the remote learning period ends.
Parents shouldn’t look to remote learning as a burden, Jackson said. The work they’ll do while learning remotely will merely “enhance” what they learned earlier this year, she said.
Parents should also encourage their students to read daily — and they can check out books online if needed — and should reach out to teachers if their children needs more work or more rigorous work, Jackson said.
At least one alderman — Ray Lopez (15th) — thinks the plans mean students will be out of class the rest of the school year.
“I have no expectation that the schools will reopen this year, especially if we continue to see social distancing & shelter in place fails,” Lopez said.
Lightfoot dismissed that during Monday’s news conference, though, saying CPS has to wait for guidance from the state to determine when and if students return to in-person class.
“We have no reason to believe that’s the case, and obviously what happens with the schools being physically open is determined at the state level, not the local level,” Lightfoot said.
It’s important families know, regardless of what happens, CPS has a plan and will look to “recoup” any learning lost during the schools closure, Jackson said.
The district is still determining what will happen over the summer and how it’ll proceed with 8th grades who were supposed to graduate and go to high school and seniors who were set to graduate. Answers to those questions will come in the future, Jackson said.
“We’re not there yet, but these are all questions we have top of mind,” Jackson said. “We are looking toward the end of this. COVID will end.
“We have to see how long this is extended and what efforts need to be in place to regain any ground we lose as a result of this. … When those plans are solidified, we’ll share them broadly.”
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