CPS juniors, seniors return to classrooms for first time in more than year

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's been over a year since Senn High School juniors and seniors stepped foot inside the building.

Friday was the first day back as social distancing markers, air purifiers and reminders on how to safely cough and say hello fill the hallways.

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"It's a very fulfilling moment after a very hard year," said Senn High School student Miles Chong. "It's such nice to be able to see teachers and meet people."

Chicago Public Schools high school students are some of the last in the area to return. At Senn, a third, or about 500 students, chose to come back for a hybrid schedule.

Freshmen and sophomores were allowed back for in-person at the beginning of the week, with juniors and seniors following at the end of the week.

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CPS CEO Janice Jackson said the goal is to bring back all students into classrooms five days a week.

"I think we are unique because we have a very large building, we are able to spread out," said Senn High School Principal Mary Beck.

Beck said a reopening team of administrators, parents and students did a lot of prep work to make it happen. The plan included a few changes, like giving students a choice to eat in the lunch room or outside.

"We need to give everything two weeks and assess if we need to switch, we will switch," Beck said.

Even with just a couple months left in the school year, students said it's better late than never.

Junior Sophia Bigg said she's an introvert who thought she enjoyed remote learning until she came back this week.

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"You can't see how the classrooms are decorated, you can't see what is going on in the hallways, it's just makes you feel like you're learning alone," she said.

Some seniors also voiced that they want to spend their last moments of high school in school.

"This year, they are ready trying to make senior year is better," said Senn High School senior, Muhammad Khan. "So we are taking about graduation [and] making prom happen."

All CPS schools, from high school to elementary, will return full time in the fall, although, students who choose to be remote will have that option.
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