CPS to start a week early, attendance push begins

July 31, 2013 (CHICAGO)

On August 26, Chicago public school students will begin the new year with changes that include reporting to different schools and dealing with budget cuts.

Last year, Chicago public school students began the year with a longer day. This year, they are faced with the challenge of new schools, new students or less teachers. Despite the turmoil, the mayor and Chicago Public Schools are focusing on the importance of first-day attendance.

While school starts in less than a month, at Brennemann Elementary the learning has already begun. The North Side school is welcoming more than 100 new students who come from a closed Chicago public school. Kids are getting to know each other through a six-week cultural integration program.

"I think kids will come to school knowing each other, ready to learn Day One, so that should diffuse perceived conflict that may occur," said Sarah Abedelal, principal.

Brennemann was used as a backdrop for Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett as they launched their back-to-school campaign reminding students that school starts a week earlier this year.

"Our collaborative efforts to promote the first day of school on August 26 will also include yard signs, robo calls, public service events," Byrd-Bennett said.

"I'm extremely excited about the countdown to the beginning of the school year," said Emanuel.

But excitement is not the way to describe many teachers and frustrated parents who are returning to schools with slashed budgets.

"The mayor pushed for this longer school day, and we are cutting art, music and P.E.; schools can't function," said Andee Harris, Raise Your Hand.

The parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand is hoping that before school starts to have a conversation with the mayor about returning tax increment financing funds to the schools.

"I don't want to move to the suburbs, but I don't want a sub-par education," Harris said.

Raise Your Hand says it has a list of several families who are leaving the city because they no longer want to send their children to Chicago Public Schools. The parent group also demanded more transparency when it comes to the CPS budget. The mayor nor Byrd-Bennett would answer questions Wednesday.

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