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Chicago Schools Could Safely Have ‘Some’ In-Person Learning This Fall, City’s Top Doctor Says

Chicago Public Schools, which serve about 350,000 students, have been closed since March 17 as part of efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus.

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Chicago Public Schools
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CHICAGO — Some Chicago students could return to classes this fall, the city’s top doctor said Friday.

Chicago Public Schools and the city will release more information next week about plans for schools come the fall. But Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said the city’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic is going well — and that could mean there will be in-person instruction in some way this fall.

“I broadly feel good that if we are able to keep our outbreak basically in control, as it is here, we will be in a position to have some capacity for in-person instruction,” Arwady said during a Friday call with reporters. “I think that is important where we think about pediatric outcomes broadly, but we need to do a lot of work to make sure that can be done safely, and there is not a one-size-fits-all approach … .”

Chicago Public Schools, which serve about 350,000 students, have been closed since March 17 as part of efforts to limit the spread of coronavirus.

But confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 are no longer growing exponentially, as they were when Gov. JB Pritzker ordered schools to close, and officials have said they’re eager to get students back into classrooms.

The city’s fought to “safeguard” its progress against coronavirus so students could return, Arwady said, and making a decision on what to do about schools is the city’s next big challenge.

Much will depend on how Chicago’s coronavirus outbreak progresses over the next few weeks, Arwady said, and individual schools could have different needs.

“Certainly there are ongoing conversations about what exactly school reopening is going to look like,” Arwady said. “There’s lots of nuance to that.”

Schools are allowed to reopen under Phase 4 of the state’s coronavirus recovery plan, which Chicago is now in.

The state released its plan to reopen schools June 23, offering them guidelines for keeping students, faculty and staff safe but ultimately giving wide power to districts to decide how and when to allow students back to class.

Officials have warned that even if students are back at class in the fall, schools will have to be prepared for remote learning should there be another wave of coronavirus.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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