School is closed: What are Parent Options during the Convid-19 Closure?

In an attempt to slow the COVID-19 virus, IL Governor J.B. Pritzker canceled Illinois schools statewide until March 30 to slow the spread of coronavirus. The order includes private, charter schools, and Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

The State of Illinois will view the CONVID-19 closure as an “Act of God”, meaning school personnel is expected to be paid during the next two weeks. The governor also waived the requirement that schools be in session for 180 days to receive state funding, meaning no district will lose tax dollars as a result of cancellations.

Gov. Pritzker’s school closure orders have sent parents scrambling to find childcare for their children. Each school district is expected to handle the closure in separate matters. Some are ending educational instruction until the order is lifted and others providing lessons online. The Governor has allowed schools to remain open Monday so students can collect their supplies while teachers explain how the at-home lesson plans will work.

CPS plans for parents in need while schools are closed:

Free and reduced-price lunches will still be available to qualifying students during CPS closures. Eligible families will be able to pick up a three-day supply of meals outside their nearest school. They will not be required to pick up meals at their school of attendance for each eligible child. Any student, regardless of whether they attend a CPS school, will be able to have access to meals. Each child in the household will receive a food bag that will contain three days of breakfast and lunch meals. Families will also be able to pick up enrichment packets at CPS facilities. The program starts Tuesday and on all weekdays throughout the closure between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

For families in need, the Chicago Park District is also an option.

Park District facilities will remain open; however, Mayor Lightfoot encouraged families to stay home. Alonzo Williams, the Park District’s chief program officer, said they are cleaning walls and countertops as a way of getting prepared to host students who otherwise may not have a place to go during the school closure. The special programming at 18 parks districts across the city begins Tuesday.

Activities are free and will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, and they will be capped at 250 people to limit the size of gatherings. The special programming activities for students will be altered to keep in line with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance for avoiding the spread of coronavirus. The district is working with the Greater Chicago Food Depository and other food providers to support families. They are asking that children attending the park district activities to send their children with a bag lunch if they can. A full list of parks open during this time can be found at www.chicagoparkdistrict.com.

In light of school closures, Mayor Lightfoot has called for Chicago’s business community to be understanding of parents and give them the time they need. “Working families across the public and private sectors need this flexibility,” she said. “No parent should be forced to choose between staying at home and earning a paycheck.”

-LaToya Wright, Contributing Writer

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