CHICAGO (WLS) -- It is day one on the job for historic Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez, coming into the third largest school district in the nation at a very challenging time.
"So for me, immediately is just trying to reduce the anxiety that's happening right now in the community," Martinez said. "I've been dealing with COVID since the outbreak started like everybody else, you know, in a different state."
Martinez, who is a native Chicagoan and a CPS graduate himself, was superintendent of schools in San Antonio, Texas before being appointed by Mayor Lori Lightfoot. With the pandemic top of mind, resolving ongoing problems surrounding testing and contact tracing are some of the first things on the new CEO'S plate, especially in light of issues at schools like Jensen Elementary, where at one point 2/3 of the school was in quarantine.
"I want to make sure we are also ramped up to have a high participation rate. It's one thing to be at all the schools. It's another thing to handle the participation rate," he said. "I've done this before; be patient with us."
And while at present only a small number of students are allowed to do remote learning, Martinez acknowledged the need to offer that option to those parents who want it.
"Remote learning is a topic that I'm going to look at because I do know there are families that want that service, what's our capacity do to that, look at that option. So let's start there," he said.
With some 350,000 students across 600 schools there are multiple challenges that face the district beyond COVID, from equity to academics. They are issues Martinez hopes to get to in the second half of the school year
"As we go into the second semester I want to focus 100% on academics," he explained. "I want to make sure we know what is the programming at our schools> Investments we need to make, equity. Let's have a conversation about what equity means in CPS, conversations with the community directly."