By Hannah Leone Chicago Tribune
While preparing for fully in-person classes this fall, Chicago Public Schools officials on Wednesday said they are also working on a centralized virtual academy for students with qualifying medical conditions.
“Although we have a lot of work to do in order to close out this school year successfully, we have turned our attention to planning for the fall,” CEO Janice Jackson said during Wednesday’s Chicago Board of Education meeting.ADVERTISING
A key component to ensuring schools are safe is getting as many people vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible, especially now that students as young as 12 are eligible, Jackson said. Though COVID-19 is not on the current list of required immunizations for students, the district has been encouraging it, hosting vaccine events at schools that are open to students and their families, in partnership with the Chicago Teachers Union.
Despite the recent collaboration, CTU President Jesse Sharkey said CPS needs to have a stronger school-based vaccine plan for students, families and employees, and set a concrete goal.
“Vaccination and falling transmission rates bring us hope for next school year,” Sharkey said. “But there is some danger in running ahead. … We cannot paper over the fact that CPS parents and students are not getting vaccinated, at least not in the numbers we need.”
Jackson, who is leaving CPS in June, said she was excited when the Illinois State Board of Education adopted a resolution last week supporting daily in-person learning next school year.
The resolution stating that schools must be full-time in person — but must provide remote instruction to those who aren’t vaccine-eligible and are under a quarantine order — becomes a mandate when State Superintendent Carmen Ayala issues a formal declaration, which she’s said she expects to do at the end of the current school year.
Through the end of April, CPS has reported spending $164.4 million on pandemic-related expenses, including more than $2.5 million on vaccination centers, refrigerators, IT support, signage and translation services.
The district is expecting roughly $1.8 billion from the American Rescue Plan, in addition to nearly $1 billion from the first two rounds of pandemic aid for schools. CPS put some of that into individual school budgets and support for students, such as summer programs to help with learning recovery.
Eva Giglio, deputy chief of staff, said CPS has formed a working group with four subcommittees for transitioning back to schools.
One subcommittee will focus on guidance for schools and families on in-person learning, including health protocols, scheduling and continuity of instruction for students who have to quarantine.
Another group is working on a virtual academy, which will serve as a “centralized remote learning option only for students who are medically fragile and at risk,” Giglio said.
But she added that it would be a missed opportunity if CPS didn’t apply lessons learned during remote learning. A third subcommittee is developing options for students to virtually take supplemental courses that aren’t available at their schools.
The fourth group is tasked with exploring ways to “thoughtfully engage” CPS families, Giglio said. After the upcoming holiday, the district plans to open a survey intended to help identify families’ needs for next school year.
Adrian Segura, deputy chief of family and community engagement, said while ISBE guidance will help frame the road ahead, the district started community engagement in April for fall reopening, including focus groups with parents and caregivers.
He said that over the summer, CPS will adjust plans based on that feedback, ramp up a back-to-school marketing campaign and release updated guidance. In August, he said, CPS will provide a range of supports leading up to the first day of school, including town halls for individual schools’ reopening plans.
The Board of Education on Wednesday also approved a resolution to automatically promote students currently in grades one through eight to the next grade, and to prioritize students who need extra academic support for interventions like summer programs. The resolution notes that CPS, along with the state of Illinois, canceled standardized assessments that traditionally guide decisions about grade promotion and summer school.
In response to questions from board members about how the district will measure students’ academic readiness, Chief of Teaching and Learning Sherly Chavarria said each school has the autonomy to choose an assessment plan.
“In terms of how we measure academic progress and readiness in the fall, largely that’s mediated at the school level,” Chavarria said.
But she said CPS is encouraging schools to consider two forms of assessments this fall: a general screening that captures how students are preforming in reading and math, and assessments tied to the specific curriculum they’ll be teaching.
CPS also needs to do everything in its power before the fall to find students it lost during the pandemic, said Board President Miguel del Valle.
“That process has to involve going out into the communities … knocking on doors as many times as it takes to help parents, to help students reconnect with our schools, and that reconnection of course has to be a very positive experience from the very beginning,” del Valle said. “They need to be motivated, and that’s on us.”
Summer programs will fall under three primary categories, Chavarria explained: academic, transition and school-designed.
Centrally managed academic programs generally serve eligible students from several schools within the same network area, with staff from multiple schools.
Schools can opt into centrally resourced but locally managed, transition-focused programs. These programs get funding from the district, but schools recruit and select their own summer programming staff, Chavarria said.
School-designed programs can vary based on students’ interests, such as robotics or dance, she said.
Academic programs include “Summer Bridge” for elementary students with low marks in reading and math standards; “Summer Support” for English learning students in kindergarten through third grade with low English literacy proficiency; and the “Extended School Year” for students in all grades who qualify through Individualized Education Plans.
CPS has more than doubled the summer offerings for students learning English or in special education programs, Chavarria said.
High schools may provide in-person credit recovery for students who failed courses required to graduate in addition to the traditional virtual credit recovery options. Chavarria said credit recovery “could positively impact as many as 7,500 students.”
A credit attainment program will be offered to English-learning students who anticipate missing graduation requirements “due to their late enrollment in a U.S. high school.” Other academic programs include “Summer of Algebra” for rising freshmen and “Exigent Math” to prepare students for eighth grade algebra or 12th grade calculus.
“Preview to Pre-K” and “Kick off to Kindergarten,” both anticipated to start in July, will provide part-day programming for new students to start building relationships so they feel comfortable in classrooms in the fall, Chavarria said.
Other transition programs are designed for high school freshman, sophomores, and current and rising seniors with IEPs who don’t qualify for the Extended School Year. The program formerly known as “Summer Melt,” to support graduating seniors in completing their post-high-school plans, will be renamed “Extended Post secondary Transition.”
Original article: chicagotribune.com