CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools will not reopen for in-person instruction this fall.
CPS announced the decision Wednesday that they will begin the school year with fully-remote learning.
But the goal is to get students back to class, at least part-time by November.
"I just wanted to make sure that they're in an environment where I know they'll be healthy," said Julissa Muriel, a CPS mom of three.
Learning and teaching entirely from the confines of their own home is where city leaders have decided students and staff can be healthiest.
"All of these unknowns really freaked me out and scared me in terms of what are the kids going to get if it's just not what they're used to," said Sari Wilis, a 3rd grade CPS teacher.
The decision came as the Chicago Teachers Union just as rumblings about a possible strike vote began and as COVID-19 cases in Chicago trended up.
"One case and it's like everyone has to disperse anyway," said CPS parent Kordny Rainey-Robinson. "I understand where the teachers are coming from."
CPS officials promised that remote learning this fall will be vastly improved from what parents and students saw this past spring.
But it won't be easy, or cheap.
"The expense of the computers, because we had to buy multiple," Muriel explained.
Muriel is juggling four children and special learning needs.
"Unfortunately I don't know how the help that they get, how their sessions will go," Muriel said.
Plenty of working parents won't have the option of supervising their students.
"I may be at work, so them being at home trying to do it on their own... I'm not sure it's going to work out versus if I was right there with them," said Queen Dixon, a CPS parent.
The decision to start the school year with a fully remote learning plan came after CPS spent weeks getting input from parents and the school community, and just a month before classes are set to resume.
"The decision to start the school year remotely was not an easy one to make, and we did not make it lightly. As an educator, my desire is to always have students in schools. For many of our students school is the safest and most stable part of their day," saidDr. Janice Jackson, CPS CEO.
The mayor denied the city gave into presser from the Chicago Teachers Union which held a drive by demonstration earlier this week and was threatening to take a strike vote if the district went ahead with the hybrid model that had been planned.
"When we announced the potential for a hybrid model, some weeks ago, we were in a very different place in the arc of the pandemic," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot, CPS announce all-remote start to school year
Lightfoot added thatwith COVID-19 cases on the rise, remote learning was the best decision based on science and safety.
"It's difficult for me to understand how, you know, Monday morning, Tuesday morning. It was, you know, all good for hybrid. And then today, Wednesday morning things are seismically different with the science," said Stacy Davis Gates, CTU VP, expressing skepticism about the reason behind the decision. But, she said it was the right call.
The CPS plan called for taking student attendance every day, and required teachers to provide a full day of remote instruction and return to letter grades.
"We're going to be doing a lot more live teaching," Willis said.
Willis has spent the summer transforming her apartment to a home classroom
"The first thing that I think of is, how do I build relationships with my students?' I'm going to be spending a lot of time really working on that," she said. "How can I do that remotely?"
"It's going to be so different from the spring and I think it can be a really beautiful thing," Willis said.
But, remote learning also means fall sports are looking more remote.
"It's safe to say that if If we can't have in person instruction, it's highly unlikely that we're going to have competitive sports in the fall," Jackson said.
The CTU said it still has concerns about the remote learning plan and how it will be implemented, and the ability to safely return to school on November 6th for the second quarter.
The city meanwhile has made plans to help essential workers with childcare and get computers to families that need them.
CTU President Jesse Sharkey issued a statement after the announcement saying, "Congratulations to the mayor for being willing to listen to the concerns of families, educators, community groups and health professionals. Now that she has stepped away from a dangerous Trump/DeVos scheme to force in-person learning this fall, we hope she will embrace guidelines set forth by real public health experts.
"We have 35 days until students report to school. Our remote learning experience must include the infrastructure, professional development, family outreach and staff support to make remote learning robust and enriching for every student. We have a long way to go and a short time to get there. CPS must immediately start planning transparently and in partnership with our union to provide every student the educational, social and emotional supports they need to learn and grow.
"We may not be teaching and supporting students in person this fall, but tens of thousands of teachers, clinicians, PSRPs, nurses, librarians and more stand ready to support our students through this pandemic. CPS' remote learning plan must vastly improve on student and family experiences from the spring, and experts on the ground-our members-must be equal partners with the district in crafting those remote learning plans.
"Our hardest-hit working families also desperately need and deserve support. The moratorium on evictions expires August 22, and the mayor must work with local and state officials to prevent the wave of evictions and foreclosures that threaten Chicago residents and many CPS families. She must work with community advocates to ensure that the city's essential workers have access to child care as they work through the pandemic. Her appointed Chicago Board of Education and CPS leaders must work with the Union and our partners in labor to aid every school worker in supporting our students.
"The mayor must step up her efforts to make sure that all of our residents and neighborhoods-particularly Black and Brown communities which have born the brunt of illness and death from the COVID-19 pandemic-are protected from the inequity that this virus has intensified. She must make her campaign commitment to equity a reality this summer by providing working families a guaranteed basic income, and every Chicagoan access to health care, living wages and affordable housing as we manage this pandemic.
"Instead of placing the onus on our members, who worked tirelessly in the spring and will do so again in the fall, the mayor and CPS CEO Janice Jackson need to take accountability for the district they lead. Mayoral control of both CPS and the Chicago Housing Authority wait list means we shouldn't have nearly 20,000 students in temporary living situations. It also means immediately taxing the rich to provide broadband Internet and devices to every child in CPS-not just 100,000-over the next five years.
"We need leadership in this city that supports the common good and provides the infrastructure to guarantee recovery for all in the era of COVID-19. Chicagoans deserve real equity, not intermittent corporate "charity" that does nothing to address systemic inequality. The mayor must move to address critical community needs by ending handouts to agencies like the Chicago Police Department, and instead, investing those funds into the needs of our school communities.
"Our students and their families are counting on us to help them withstand the trauma, loss and hardship that COVID has forced upon them. We call on the mayor and her handpicked Board of Ed to join us in transforming Chicago into a city grounded in true racial and economic justice. Anything less perpetuates the inequality that has plagued our city for generations-and that's not good enough."
The Archdiocese of Chicago said that despite a reversal from CPS, its schools will reopen for full-time, in-person instruction in the fall.
In a message sent to parents Wednesday, the superintendent of Catholic schools said the archdiocese believes its plan is in the "best interests of children."
An e-learning option is also being offered, with more information on that promised in the days ahead.