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CPS Parents, Teachers Say They’re Frustrated By Vague Reopening Plans: ‘I Do Not Want To Be An Experiment’

The Chicago Teachers Union wants CPS to scrap its hybrid model and focus on a remote learning plan for the start of the school year.

Teachers protesting at Suder Montessori Elementary Magnet School on the second day of the Chicago teacher strike in October.
Yana Kunichoff/Chalkbeat
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CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools parents have one week to decide how they want their kids to attend school this fall, but some parents and teachers say they don’t have enough information to make a choice.

On Friday, CPS sent parents a survey asking if they intend to keep their kids at home for remote learning or enroll their kids in a hybrid program, which would have most students in classrooms for two days a week.

The hybrid program also would have most students doing remote learning for two days, and three hours of real-time virtual instruction once a week.

Under CPS’ plan, kindergarten through sophomore students will learn under the hybrid model; juniors and seniors would learn completely at home; preschoolers and those with special needs would be in class fulltime.

Parents have until Friday to decide whether they want to keep their kids at home for all remote learning, but some say CPS hasn’t provided enough details on how either plan will work.

“My husband and I are still trying to decide,” said Katie Baltensperger, whose two children go to a CPS Montessori school. “With no information, it’s pretty tricky.”

Baltensperger, a Belmont Gardens resident, said she has done her homework on the CPS hybrid plan. But she wants to know more about CPS’ plans for remote learning.

In particular, she said she’s curious if the setup has evolved since spring, when learning was quickly transitioned to a virtual setting as the coronavirus pandemic swept into Chicago.

“I assume it will look something like it did in the spring,” she said. “There’s really not much information to weigh which option to chose.”

RELATED: CPS Students Will Learn Under Hybrid Model Of At-Home And In-Person Under Mayor’s Plan

Aiko Kojima Hibino, a CPS parent and education activist, said parents are being asked to chose between an “ill-conceived” hybrid model or a remote learning plan which parents would have to commit to “without knowing its details.”

Parents, Hibino said, “are forced to choose with extremely limited information on extremely short notice.”

A CPS spokesperson said parents who select the hybrid model can opt out at any time.

But parents who start with remote learning and want their children to switch to the hybrid model will have to wait until the beginning of the second quarter.

Parents opting for remote learning will be given more details in the coming weeks, according to district officials.

Baltensperger said most parents she talked to will likely select the hybrid model now, since they can switch to the remote plan at any point.

But if many parents sign up for the hybrid model now, only to switch to remote learning closer to the school year, that could throw off the district’s preparations, Baltensperger said. The district could be compelled to pour time into the hybrid model, based on survey results, only to have parents pull out at the last minute.

“It’s just a big mess in the making,” Baltensperger said.

Some teachers and parents are asking CPS to scrap the hybrid plan altogether.

On Monday, the Chicago Teachers Union blasted the district’s hybrid back-to-school plan, saying there aren’t enough resources to make schools safe for students or staff. Instead, the union is asking the school district to focus entirely on a remote learning plan for the beginning of the year.

“It is not appropriate to open in-person learning with raging contagion,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey.

Tara Stamps, a CPS teacher and former aldermanic candidate, said parents she’s talked to currently don’t feel comfortable making a decision on in-person learning.

“When I talk to parents, they’re scared,” Stamps said. “They feel disconnected because no one is talking to them.

Given parents’ fears, Stamps said CPS should scrap the hybrid model and roll out a comprehensive remote learning plan.

“We have this opportunity to make remote learning more robust,” Stamps said at the CTU rally. “We’re wasting precious time … for something that will not work at all.”

With coronavirus numbers in Chicago and Illinois trending the wrong way, focusing on remote learning is the best plan at this point, said Andrea Parker, a 16-year-veteran teacher.

“I don’t want to be an experiment,” Parker said at the rally. “Let’s not set up students and teachers for failure.”

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