CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools officials and Mayor Lori Lightfoot outlined what school might look like in the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic Friday.
The tentative plan involves most students using a hybrid-learning model, through both in-person instruction and remote learning.
"We believe a hybrid model will be the best model to meet the needs of all the students," said CPS CEO Janice Jackson.
The district called the model a framework, and said it is subject to change. As it stands, pre-K and special education students will learn in person at school. Students in grades K through 10 will learn through a mixture of remote learning and in-person instruction, and high school juniors and seniors will learn remotely only.
"We also know that older students are more adept at working remotely and staying on pace than some of our younger students," Jackson explained.
Jackson said older students have different schedules, which makes it difficult to divide them up into pods, which is how other students will be grouped.
For in-school learning, kids will be in groups of 15 and stay with each other and the same teachers all day. Masks will be worn at all times, and in-times will be staggered.
"All in all, most pods will learn at school two days per week and then independently at home two days a week, and one day of real-time virtual classroom instruction by a teacher," Jackson explained.
To keep the school community safe the district is buying 1.2 million face masks, 40,000 containers of wipes, 42,000 hand sanitizer dispensers, 22, 000 touchless thermometers, and hiring 400 additional custodians.
However, the Chicago Teacher's Union does not think it is safe to return to classrooms.
"We think we need full remote learning to begin the school year," said CTU President Jesse Sharkey. "We think the conditions are too dangerous to be going back in person."
Mayor Lightfoot stressed nothing is set in stone.
"Schools will have a tremendous amount of flexibility to make sure that the plane that is chosen makes sense," she said.
Parents and students had mixed reactions to the announcement Friday.
CPS parent Jori Ross said she feels good about the plan.
"I do feel like they should go a few days a week," she said. "They need the socialization, they need the interaction, and I think as far as my child, she does better in the classroom setting."
Under the plan, a fourth grader like 9-year-old London LaCour would have a blended schedule.
"I am very excited. Even though we can't hug and stuff, I'm just glad we are able to see each other," she said. "I know we saw each other through the screen, but, it's the screen. I want to see them in person."
Rachel Ivy, on the other hand, isn't a fan of the plan after what her daughter, a high school junior at Whitney Young, already experienced during the last remote learning session.
"It was not as engaging as I thought it would be," Ivy said. "Unless they really plan on revamping what remote learning looks like for them, because if it is indicative of how we were before, I am not a big fan."
Her daughter, 16-year-old Jordan Williams, said she'll make the best out of the situation but can't help but feel she is missing out on some of her high school experience.
"I am a little upset because everyone wants to have their junior year of high school," she said. "It's the year everyone talks about the most. You're thinking about colleges, you're talking to your friends about college."
The district is soliciting feedback from parents, teachers and staff through a series of five meetings and an online survey for the next two weeks. A final plan is not expected to be announced before early August.
The district is following the guidance of state and local health officials, and the preliminary framework is designed to adapt to the evolving public health situation, CPS officials said. The district will only begin hybrid-learning, which includes in-person instruction, if it is deemed safe to do so based on the latest public health guidance.
Students will have the option to opt-out of in-person instruction, CPS said. Staff with medical or caretaking needs will have their leave of absence or accommodation requests assessed in late July.
Families, students and staff can submit feedback through July 31. Click here to take the CPS survey.
CPS will also hold five meetings (three in English, two in Spanish). You must register in advance to participate.