But even before CPS makes a final decision about whether to reopen schools, parents have learned that they must indicate by Aug. 7 whether their children will participate in the proposed hybrid approach or stick with all remote learning.
Five community feedback sessions hosted by CPS in the past week demonstrated that parents, students and teachers had many lingering concerns about both the prospect of schools reopening and the continuation of remote learning. And the Chicago Teachers Union is strongly opposed to reopening schools without what its members see as adequate protections against COVID-19.
CPS administrators have stressed that all parents can opt their children out of in-person classes for any reason at any time. However, those choosing remote learning must commit to this option for the quarter.
Here are some frequently asked questions about the current hybrid proposal:
How many days a week would my kids have in-school classes?
Kindergartners through 10th graders would attend school in person two days a week, either on Mondays and Tuesdays or Thursdays and Fridays. Preschoolers would have in-person learning five days a week. In school, children would be grouped in “pods” that would stay together to reduce interaction among students.
All students except preschoolers would learn remotely on Wednesdays with three hours of live teacher instruction. The rest of remote instruction would involve students working on prepared lessons without a teacher working with them in real time.
What about the plan for high school juniors and seniors?
Under the proposed plan, juniors’ and seniors’ classes would be almost all remote, because their diverse course options make it more difficult to place students in pods, officials have said. However, after much feedback from parents and students, CPS officials have indicated those plans could change and that some schools might be able to bring in juniors and seniors.
Counselors would work remotely to provide college application and other support for seniors. Schools also would have the flexibility to bring in juniors and seniors for counseling or other activities at school, officials said.
How would schools be kept clean, disinfected and well-ventilated?
Officials said Friday that all buildings would be deep-cleaned daily, with additional cleaning every Wednesday in between the two sets of student pods. Preschool classrooms would be cleaned in between morning and afternoon sessions. High-touch surfaces, lunchrooms and bathrooms would be cleaned regularly throughout the day. CPS says it’s hiring 400 new custodians.
Officials say they’ve already purchased 40,000 containers of disinfectant wipes, 42,000 hand sanitizer dispensers and 22,000 infrared thermometers, along with other materials. Plans call for all students and staff to be provided three face masks at the beginning of the year.
CPS is working on equipping schools with enhanced air filtration systems.
How would student ‘pods’ work?
Students would be grouped into so-called pods of 15 or fewer who would stay together throughout the school day. Students would have minimal interaction with other pods and maintain social distancing “as much as possible” within their own pod. Students who need to take other classes outside of their pod would take those remotely. Teachers would rotate among a limited number of pods. Officials have emphasized this pod model in their efforts to convince parents the plan is safe. Students would enter and exit the building through assigned doors with their pods.
What about lunch and bathroom breaks?
Students will eat with other children in their pod, either in their classrooms or in the lunchroom on a staggered schedule.
Student pods will have designated bathrooms, which will undergo frequent cleanings.
Will siblings be allowed to be the on same schedule for in-school days?
Officials say they’ll try to schedule siblings for the same two days of in-person instruction. Siblings in the same grade would be placed in the same pod.
What if a student gets sick at school?
Any student who exhibits symptoms would be sent to a designated “care room” in the building until a parent can pick them up.
What if a teacher calls in sick?
Schools are being provided with a cadre of substitute teachers, officials said, and will limit the movement of day-to-day substitute teachers “to maintain the integrity of our pods.”
What happens if someone in my child’s school tests positive for the coronavirus?
Officials say pods would help with contact tracing when cases occur, “and cases will occur,” said CPS Chief Health Officer Kenneth Fox on Friday.
After a case is reported to CPS, all “first-degree contacts” — every student and teacher in that pod — would be expected to quarantine for 14 days. Siblings of students who are quarantining and students in other pods would not be expected to quarantine, CPS officials said.
What will remote learning look like this fall?
All remote learning will be centralized on Google platforms. All remote learning, except the three hours of live teacher instruction on Wednesdays, will be five hours a day of pre-prepared curriculum for students to complete on their own. Unlike in the spring, attendance and participation will be tracked daily, officials said.
In response to many questions from parents pressing for more information about the all-remote option, a CPS official said Friday that details will be released “soon.”
What about opting out of remote learning?
Any student can opt out of in-person learning for any reason, CPS officials have repeatedly said. However, students will be committing to their choice for an entire quarter and can’t “opt in and out, because you’re breaking the pod,” Jackson said Monday.
What are the health metrics for switching between remote, hybrid and in-person models?
CPS officials have wavered on specifying health metrics. At one point, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said a 5% positivity rate or higher means the virus is out of control. She later changed this to an 8% positivity rate.
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CPS should consider moving to all-remote learning if there are more than 400 cases daily in the city using a seven-day rolling average, Marielle Fricchione, Chicago Department Public Health immunization program medical director, said during Friday’s session. Remote learning should also be considered if there are more than 200 cases daily “with concerning epidemiological factors” such as rapid increase of cases and inadequate hospital capacity, Fricchione said.
Why is CPS proposing a hybrid plan instead of focusing on improving all-remote learning?
CPS officials have repeatedly said they believe a hybrid model is the best balance between safety and learning needs, and that they will not reopen if public health experts deem it unsafe to do so. Jackson said on Friday the current plan includes strategies for both in-person and online learning, “so we’re not focused on hybrid at the expense of remote.”
If students choose remote learning, will they lose their spots at or their places in line for enrollment in magnet schools and other selective schools?
No, all students who opt out remain enrolled in their school and will not lose their position for enrollment in selective schools.