CPS has released its tentative plan for learning in the Fall, leaving many families in arms about returning to classrooms. While families with essential workers feel a degree of relief, other families have voiced significant concern for the safety of students and families seeking to return to the classroom.
CPS will be hosting virtual meetings to gather feedback from families concerning their tentative plans. However, families have the option to opt-out of in-person instruction. It seems the only question left to be answered for families is whether or not the city will provide equitable access to a high quality of instruction for all students.
While CPS distributed over 100,000 laptops to families, the district serves over 350,000 students. The average school day will consist of at least 5 hours of instruction, so families with multiple children attending a CPS school will find it challenging to ensure that all students can adequately complete assignments. This is in addition to the overwhelming number of students without a reliable internet connection.
Furthermore, some families have questioned the quality of instruction, citing the lack of planning and effort experienced in the Spring semester and its effect on students’ learning. One parent reports that her high school senior barely received any assignments, and correspondence with many of her son’s teachers was all but non-existent. Many are aware of the poor quality of e-learning, but considering the circumstances, suggest a broader definition of what education may look like. Former mayoral candidate Paul Vallas suggested that families should be able to transfer their students to any public district or charter high school. This would open the doors for students who attended poorly performing schools to receive better instruction from some of Chicago’s highest performing schools. Vallas also believes high school students should be encouraged to take online courses from sources outside of their high school teachers. “The district should also consider offering high school juniors and seniors paid work-study opportunities as a substitute for non-essential electives. This would also reduce the number of students on campus when school campuses reopen. The work-study program will keep students in a safe place. It will introduce students to a world outside their neighborhoods, help develop workplace-readiness skills, connect them with supportive mentors and put money in their pockets,” says Vallas.
For many families, this is an opportunity to redefine public education to yield better results for everyone. Families are encouraged to take the three-question survey by July 31 and attend any of the five scheduled virtual meetings hosted by CPS for more information.