CPS, school districts make plans to combat learning loss caused by COVID pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It's been a year like no other for education. School districts have spent much of the past year consumed with plans to each safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, their next big challenge is making up for lost time, or what Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson called "unfinished learning."

"We are going to use a large share of our stimulus dollars or CARES funding for unfinished learning," Jackson said. "You'll hear more about that in the coming weeks."

Jackson said CPS is working on a plan that includes providing tutors for students and other resources to help make up the gap.

"Each individual school will be given the dollars and support to create their own plan to address their unique student population," she said.

By contrast, Union Ridge School District is among the area's smallest; a one-school district in Harwood Heights with a low income population, where English is a second language for most students. Supt. Michael Maguire said making up for learning loss is part of the focus.

"For us to be successful for these students is to make sure we are listening to them," he said.

Addressing social and emotional needs is a big part of the district's comeback plan.

"Whether it be teaching about feelings, teaching coping skills to our middle schoolers, or teaching activities about signs of suicide," said Joe Kerke, Union Ridge School District 86 Social Worker.

While school districts big and small figure out ways to make up for academic and emotional loss, superintendents admit there have been some silver linings to the past year. Technology is perhaps the biggest; every CPS student is now equipped with a device and internet access for the next four years.

"One thing we have been able to see is that by offering meeting opportunities virtually, you see more attendance," Jackson said.

And some parents said technology forced them to be more involved than ever before.

"You have a lot more parents sitting with their kids, engaging also in their studies," said Sabrina Jackson, CPS parent.

With innovation and resiliency, school communities are confident students will bounce back from the pandemic year quickly.
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