Chicago Public Schools parents are being asked to decide in the next week whether to send their children to school part-time this fall or keep them home with only one day of live instruction online.
The choice is a monumental one for most families as they figure out how to balance their children’s education with the health risks of gathering in groups during a deadly pandemic. Yet it’s now one they have to make a month before school would resume without knowing the state of the virus in the city at that time, or exactly what the district’s final fall plan looks like.
Officials sent messages to parents Friday afternoon revealing an Aug. 7 deadline for that decision, explaining the district will need time to plan based on how many families decide to stick with remote learning.
“The district’s approach for delivering full-time home-based learning will be tailored to the number of families who choose this option,” the email from CPS chief executive Janice Jackson and education chief LaTanya McDade read.
With little known about the direction of the virus between now and Sept. 8, when the school year is set to start, it may be tough for families to make an educated decision. CPS also on Friday held its last of five community meetings to take input on its fall framework, and is yet to issue its final plan for the fall.
CPS itself has cited the unpredictable nature of the virus in saying it won’t make a final announcement on a return to classrooms until closer to the start of the school year.
Parents who decide their kids won’t be attending school have to stick with that choice through the first quarter of the school year. Parents who pick the partial in-person option can opt back out at any point.
As part of a discussion in the Facebook group for parent advocacy organization Raise Your Hand, one mother warned that families could pick hybrid learning simply to give themselves more time to decide since that option allows them to opt out later. A potential last-minute switch by thousands of families could throw off CPS’ plans.
“People switching en masse to remote after choosing hybrid will require reconfiguring pods, reconfiguring remote learning, re-accomodating remote only teachers, etc. Just something to think about,” the parent wrote.
For those picking full-time remote learning, CPS plans to offer live instruction only one day a week — Wednesday, the same as students who’ll go to school twice a week. The district said attendance will still be tracked the other four days, and kids will be expected to “engage in a minimum of five hours of instructional activity” those days.
“While they will only have live instruction one day a week, teachers will design activities, including pre-recorded lessons, independent work to build skills, and independent projects connected to the curriculum,” Jackson and McDade wrote.
Some parents took to social media after receiving the message to air their frustrations about making a decision with so much uncertainty.
“I’m upset, angry, and frustrated,” a mother wrote in the Raise Your Hand discussion. “I understand the need for planning time but parents need more information before choosing. … And with the number of new infections increasing, a lot may change in a month.”
Another mother said she wasn’t sure how she could decide to keep her kids home before knowing what the fully remote experience would look like. She said the one day of live instruction was concerning.