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Chicago schools will teach online in fall, dropping plan for partial in-person classes

Chicago schools will teach online in fall, dropping plan for partial in-person classes
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Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the third-largest school district in the country, will retreat from its previous proposal for limited in-person classes and instead conduct online classes starting in September.

Online instruction will continue through at least the first quarter of the school year, which ends Nov. 6, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said during a press conference Wednesday. 

Jackson said the decision was made after getting feedback from teachers and parents, including in a series of virtual town halls last week, where parents expressed concern. 

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“It was evident that our families were not comfortable with the state of the pandemic and the national response,” she said. “Although our families expressed how much they wanted to return to their school communities and how much their students missed their friends and teachers, they did not feel this was the right time.”

The district noted in a statement obtained by The Associated Press that 41 percent of elementary school parents and 38 percent of high school parents said they would not send their children into school buildings.

The head of CPS said the city will reevaluate whether to continue instruction online at the end of the first quarter. The online learning will consist of a mix of live teaching, small group work and independent learning, Jackson said, noting she knows it cannot replace in-person instruction.

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Jackson added that the school district will continue its meal distribution program “as long as it’s needed” and continue providing devices to students. 

Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) reported that Chicago’s coronavirus cases are steadily rising, even if the city is faring better than other areas of the country. Chicago has confirmed more than 250 new cases daily over the past few days, a figure that has increased in recent weeks, The New York Times reported

“The fact of the matter is we are seeing an increase in cases,” she said. “Combined with the trends that we are seeing, the decision to start remotely makes sense for a district of CPS’s size and diversity.”

“But we also understand the struggle this will be for many of our parents who have to manage work, child care and all the other needs at home which is in part why we’re making this announcement now,” she added. 

The news comes after teacher protests have broken out in several U.S. cities this week, including in Chicago, against the plans to reopen schools. The Chicago Teachers Union had started to plan a strike vote if the previous plan stood, saying it couldn’t keep the students and teachers safe. 

CPS’s tentative plan for a hybrid program, first announced in mid-July, would have split students into groups of 15 children each, and would have held in-person classes two times per week.

New York City is the only major school district aiming for some form of in-person instruction. Out of the country’s 25 largest school districts, only five are planning for a version of in-person instruction, and out of the seven largest, six will hold remote classes, the Times reported.