Our Chicago: CPS students head back to class earlier amid 3rd pandemic school year

ByBlanca Rios via WLS logo
Sunday, August 21, 2022
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CPS students will return to school with a new 2022 calendar, different COVID guidelines and additional security measures.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Summer is unofficially over for Chicago Public School students.

Students head back to class tomorrow, roughly two weeks earlier than usual.

Historically, their first day of school has been on the Tuesday after Labor Day.

CPS is the nation's third-largest district with more than 330,000 children enrolled at 636 schools.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said kids are starting earlier thanks to a survey filled out by students, teachers, and parents. Students overwhelmingly picked this school calendar.

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"Our students get to finish their semesters exams, that's especially relevant for middle school grades as well as high school grades. They get to finish them before Christmas break," said Martinez. In the older calendars, we always had to come back and review and they still had to take exams after the Christmas break."

And as students enter a third pandemic school year, Martinez said masks will still be encouraged and weekly screening tests will still be conducted at schools.

"With the new CDC guidance the only children that will have to isolate, that won't be able to learn from classrooms, will be children that are positive or have symptoms," Martinez said. All of our other children will be able to learn safely from their classrooms."

Our Chicago: Part 2

School districts across the country are dealing with teachers shortages and that's no different for Chicago. But while Martinez said CPS is still hiring, they're in a much better place than last year.

SEE ALSO | How schools are trying to address the national teacher shortage

"We have more school based positions, whether it's teachers, aides, support personnel - we're going to have more teachers in our schools than ever before," Martinez said,.

They are also prepared for students who've fallen behind educationally because of the pandemic.

"We have diagnostics that we would all have our schools use, and so we know where the needs are for children. And we have now intervention teachers in every single school," said Martinez.

The last school year ended with the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. That and other mass shooting is making security top of mind for parents.

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"We're making investments in personnel and equipment," Martinez said. "We're doing drills like we always do every year, even some special drills."

Resources are also being sent out to parents that includes videos on what to look for as well as contact information.

"I want families to know that this is an area that we're going to continue to prioritize but we're also prioritizing in the mental health of our children," Martinez said.

Martinez said the district has trained more teachers so they can be more trauma informed. He said they've also added more social workers, case managers and counselors.