Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said talks were underway between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) on returning to in-person learning for high schoolers. “We’re beginning those discussions with CTU, and one of the things that we’re committed to, is providing much more transparency and collaboration with our parents in order to do that,” Jackson said during a visit to a West Loop elementary school Thursday.
THE CHALLENGE OF A HYBRID SYSTEM
CPS acknowledges that it is a challenge to formulate a hybrid pod system for high school students. Due to their schedules, HS students typically change classes. Meaning hundreds of students would pass each other several times a day. The switching of classrooms would heighten the chances of spreading Covid-19 between students and staff.
CPS CEO Jackson stated she received several emails from parents of high schoolers. They are displeased with the current remote learning model. They want their children back in the classroom. She agrees that remote learning is not a replacement for in-person learning. However, she believes that it works. Jackson said, “Remote learning, I think we have a strong system. I think it’s as strong as it can get. But it’s no replacement for in-person instruction.”
The plan is to use the recently agreed-upon school re-opening framework that CTU members voted on last week to help facilitate a method for high schoolers to return to in-person learning. “The first thing I want people to know is that our high school students returning to school is the top priority,” said Jackson during her visit. While both Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS are optimistic that this second round of bargaining will be less complicated due to the new framework, CTU leaders feel otherwise.
CTU WANTS REDUCED SCREEN TIME
Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) Vice President Stacy Davis Gates takes issue with Jackson’s refusal to lessen students’ screen time. When asked about student screen time, Jackson insisted that there will no changes or adjustments made “from a policy or logistical standpoint” to the way remote learning is currently conducted. “We want our students in school more, not less,” said Jackson. In comments made to Chicago Sun-Times, Gates said, “To hear them say … that they have made all the improvements to remote learning that they intend to make is a slap in the face for those who will continue to be in remote learning.”
Gates went on to express her apprehension about teachers’ ability to simultaneously and effectively provide instruction for students both in-person and online, asking, “Juxtapose to that our educators who have … children on a screen and children in front of them. How do you instruct like that?”
Paula J. Shelton is a freelance writer and journalist based in Chicago. Find her on social @beboldshineon.