Coronavirus Chicago: Mayor Lori Lightfoot announces new remote learning plans at CPS, City Colleges

Tuesday, March 31, 2020
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With no date for schools to reopen in sight, the city and Chicago Public Schools are putting together an official remote learning plan for students.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools has announced new remote learning plans so students can continue their education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CPS schools were shut down earlier this month to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. They will remain shuttered for at least three more weeks.

"We will not allow this crisis to be an obstacle to our students' futures and their dreams," said Mayor Lightfoot. "It was a herculean effort to shift one's curriculum to an entirely new medium-especially in such a short amount of time-and it's a testament to the passion and commitment of Chicago's entire education community that they have been able to do just that. While our schools remain closed, thanks to our city's countless faculty and staff, education in Chicago remains open."

Free educational resources for kids stuck at home

Lightfoot and CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson also announced a plan to get thousands of devices into the hands of homebound students so they can use the plans.

"In the coming weeks, we will distribute more than 100,000 devices to CPS families to increase student access to electronic materials during this time," Jackson said.

CPS said it plans to implement remote learning beginning on April 13 and families can expect to hear directly from their schools by April 6, the district said.

"The hardest part is not knowing who has access to what and the communication piece," said Sari Willis, third grade teacher at Bernhard Moos Elementary.

The schools will offer both digital and non-digital learning options, schools can create their own activities to supplement district instruction and teachers will provide weekly feedback to students. Bridging the digital divide among students who don't have computers or internet access was a main concern for both the district and Chicago Teachers Union officials.

"We will not allow this crisis to be an obstacle to our students' future, and their dreams, particularly as it pertains to CPS," Lightfoot said.

Teachers will be available to students for academic support and schools will provide office hours during regular school hours to answer questions about remote learning.

The district's 335,000 students have been out of school for the past two weeks.

Connnor Garcia and his dad Alex share one laptop.

"We blocked out a few hours for schoolwork and homework, and a few hours for dad to be on Zoom call after Zoom call," Alex Garcia said.

Their split screen time is hardly unique.

"We're fortunate enough that we do have a laptop," Garcia said. "I know plenty of other families, they don't have an alternative."

Kelly Burns has three children attending CPS schools, and said right now they've been doing what they can to keep up with their work.

"We're fortunate where we have the resources, and internet and laptops, and parents who are at home and able to be helping right now," he said.

The Illinois Board of Education said students' grades will not be negatively impacted by this time away from school, and Burns said he understands the big task of getting the whole district on a new page.

"I'm not envious of the work CPS has to do in front of them, but I'm confident they'll do the best they can," Burns said.

While CPS scrambles to set up the online infrastructure, parents are suddenly taking on another role on top of their daily jobs.

"A little anxious, trying to better understand how they're going to roll this out, what the actual plan is," Alex Garcia said.

And students are left to navigate their education without the crucial in-person element.

"The teachers at my school, they're cool, they kind of explain it in a way that might be easier for me to figure out," Connor Garcia said.

For City Colleges of Chicago, the system has moved from 10 percent of credit classes being fully online to 92 percent available.

"I am so proud of the teamwork and flexibility shown by our students, faculty and staff who made the transition to remote learning in just one week's time," said Chancellor Juan Salgado. "We recognize our students, in particular, are facing unprecedented challenges, and we are committed to providing them every possible support to ensure they persist in their courses and reach their academic and career goals."

City Colleges' free adult education classes will be offered remotely on April 13 and City Colleges is also offering loaner laptops.

The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a hotline at 1-800-889-3931. More information can be found at the IDPH website and the Chicago Department of Public Health website.3