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Chicago Public Schools will be online only for the first quarter of 2020-21

Aug. 5, 2020
The district had preliminary plans to offer in-person classes twice a week, but Covid-19 transmission rates in Chicago make that approach unsafe, officials say.

The Chicago school system has announced that its students will begin the 2020-21 school year learning at home through the end of the first quarter.

The school district, the nation's third largest, says it decided on an online-only approach after "carefully considering advice from public health experts" as well as feedback from constituents.

"[A]t this time, the Chicago Department of Public Health believes that current Covid-19 transmission trends would not allow us to reopen schools in a safe and responsible manner given the sheer number of people we serve every day," the district says in a letter to families. "And rather than waiting until the end of August to make a decision on reopening schools, we wanted to afford our parents and families ample time to plan for the fall."

Chicago had intended to use a hybrid schedule that would have put children in classrooms two days a week.

Although many families expressed a desire to begin the year in a hybrid model of in-person and remote instruction, a large number of families did not feel comfortable sending their children back to school, the district says.

Approximately one in five African-American and Latinx families had indicated to to school officials that they did not plan to send their children back to school in person.

District leaders say the online instruction program will provide students with "an engaging learning experience that is significantly different from what students and families experienced last year."

"Each day, students will be engaged for the entirety of a typical school day through a combination of live real-time instruction with classmates and teachers, small group activities, and independent learning," the district says.

Unlike last school year when the district used digital and non-digital learning in response to the sudden shutdown, teachers will provide digital instruction every day this school year, officials say.

"We know students need consistent access to devices and high-speed internet to be successful in digital learning, and we are committed to providing devices for all students," the district says. "Last school year, we distributed more than 128,000 computing devices to students, and we will provide an additional 36,000 devices to children who still need them prior to the start of school."

Online-only instruction will be in place until at least Nov. 5, the end of the first quarter. During that time the district will "assess the state of Covid-19 and the safety of switching to a hybrid learning model."

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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