CPS sets date for high school students to return to classrooms

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools announced Tuesday that it has set a target date for high schoolers to return to in-person learning for the start of the system's fourth quarter.

In a statement tonight, the Chicago Teachers Union said there is no agreement, claiming the district put out information preemptively. But the CPS parents who spoke to ABC7 hope the target date gets set in stone.

"This is a step forward in a big way for the city of Chicago," said Rev. David Griggs, a CPS parent.

"We feel like this is us getting our life back," said Willie Preston, another CPS parent.

CPS hopes to have high schoolers back to in-person learning through a hybrid schedule by April 19. If all goes to plan, all of Willie Preston's six kids will be back in class, including his eager freshman at Walter Payton.

RELATED: CPS 6th through 8th grade students return to in-person learning

"It's going to be the first time he's ever walked inside a building so he, he is so excited," Preston said. "So it's a year later than expected, but we're about to get that real true freshman experience."

Griggs' daughter is a freshman at Whitney Young.

"Our children will be able to move to the next phase of their lives, their learning, their journeys," he said. "We will not get back to normal, but we will certainly move to a new normal."

He said this return will also mean a fresh start.

"It will improve the social, emotional and academic development that children have been at risk in this new model over the last 12 months," Griggs said.

However, the target date will depend upon a joint agreement between the District and CTU.

In a statement, CTU said, in part: "We have no agreement on returning to in-person learning in high schools on any date, nor will there be an agreement until we know our school buildings can reopen safely."

The district now plans to host a high school town hall meeting Wednesday at 5 p.m. for anyone who may have questions or concerns.

FULL STATEMENT FROM CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION:
The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement to rank and file CTU members tonight in response to this evening's CPS email to parents distorting the status of negotiations at the table:
You may have received an email from Mayor Lori Lightfoot's CPS leadership team this evening claiming April 19 is the target date to reopen high school buildings, based on "concepts" that our union and the district have discussed.
Let me be clear: We have no agreement on returning to in-person learning in high schools on any date, nor will there be an agreement until we know our school buildings can reopen safely.
The CPS email is unfortunately more unilateralism from the mayor's handpicked Board of Education - a way to publicly roll out a boilerplate plan created behind closed doors with no educator support, stakeholder engagement, parent input or student agency.
Many high school students have spent their entire school careers in CPS. They are old enough, and deserve, to be a part of these conversations.
Instead, we just have disappointing business as usual from the mayor and CPS, and efforts to create a more collegial, professional dynamic at the table have been met with nothing but complete misrepresentation of the status of discussions.

So we reset.
The mayor and CPS cannot set a date for return, then inevitably blame educators if any problems meeting that deadline arise. Instead, the district must work with parents, students, educators and all stakeholders in crafting a safe plan for high school return to in-person instruction.
The mayor and CPS cannot publicly distort the state of our talks, while also stonewalling in providing critical data that must guide any agreement.
For example, we have no data on how many vaccines CPS has offered educators. We do know some educators had to miss daytime appointments because the district failed to provide substitute coverage for their students, and no teacher would ever leave their class unattended.
We know that testing protocols aren't uniform for either students or staff in many elementary schools, while there have also been multiple breakdowns with the health screener.
CPS and the mayor continue to ignore problems with virtual learning that are negatively impacting the majority of our students who remain remote.
The district is still not sharing data on how many students have actually returned to elementary schools, as its initial estimate of 77,000 fell to 60,000 and is surely lower than that today.
CPS continues to fail in providing timely, up-to-date COVID data to both our union and the public.
None of this equates to properly running a school district in a pandemic, or engaging in responsible, good faith bargaining that will land an agreement to safely reopen our high schools.
We need safety in any reopening plan, not CPS and the mayor undermining the trust of parents, students and educators as they hide data and misrepresent talks at the bargaining table.

FULL STATEMENT FROM CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS:

Dear CPS Families and Staff,

For the past two weeks, CPS leadership and high school principals have been meeting with Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) officials as part of a joint task force to establish a plan that will allow high school students and staff to safely return to schools this year. Following the successful reopening of our elementary schools as well as new guidance from the Biden Administration that supports bringing students back to classrooms, we know we can safely resume in-person high school instruction as long as the right plan is in place.

We are pleased to report that discussions with CTU have been productive and we want to provide you an update on several concepts the parties have discussed:
Start Date: April 19, the first day of the fourth quarter, is our target date for students to return to classrooms.
Eligibility: We believe that all families must have an option for in-person learning, and a return to high school classrooms must be available to all students. To the extent possible, we want to ensure students will remain with their assigned teachers upon returning to in-person learning
Hybrid Learning Model: Similar to elementary schools, instructional models will vary between schools due to difference in enrollment and capacity for social distancing throughout the district. CPS and CTU are discussing a hybrid structure that would provide in-person instruction at least two days per week for nearly all interested students.
Providing high school students the option to safely return on April 19 is a top priority for the district, and we will continue meeting regularly with CTU representatives as we strive to reach a consensus that provides the smoothest possible transition for our families and staff. Negotiations are ongoing with CTU and we will continue to provide updates to families as discussions proceed.

We strongly encourage all families who are interested in learning more to participate in our high school townhall tomorrow, Wednesday, March 17, at 5 p.m. Please register at bit.ly/HStownhall2 in advance. And if you have not yet completed your intent form, which was sent directly to all CPS parents and guardians who have contact information on file, please respond as soon as your decision is made so we can plan accordingly. We encourage all families who are considering in-person learning to opt-in so they can maintain the ability to return this year.

Sincerely,

Janice K. Jackson, EdD LaTanya D. McDade
Chief Executive Officer Chief Education Officer
Chicago Public Schools Chicago Public Schools
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