CPS parents have until Monday to decide between in-person or remote learning

In-person learning amid COVID-19

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The deadline is soon for Chicago Public School parents to choose between in-person or remote learning for their children when CPS starts having students in classrooms again.

If public health experts say it's safe enough, CPS plans to start having pre-kindergarten and special education cluster students returning for in-person learning as soon as Jan. 11. They would be in school buildings five days a week. Kindergarten through 8th graders would be phased in starting Feb. 1.

CPS Chief Education Officer LaTonya McDade said parents have until Monday to decide whether their children will continue with remote-learning or return to in-person instruction as part of a hybrid learning program.

McDade said that, if parents are unsure, they should opt for in-person learning.

"They can opt out any time from in-person, but you can’t do the reverse," she said. "If you opt out of in-person now, your next opportunity to opt-in to in-person won’t be until quarter four which is in April."

McDade said the school system has done "quite a bit to make our schools safer." One area CPS is having a problem is in filling 400 new building custodian jobs. Since the job openings were announced a few weeks ago, CPS has only hired 100 custodians.

"Everyone looking to, probably, bolster their custodian force in their organizations. So, yes, it is challenging to onboard that number of people," she said.

The Chicago Teachers Union said now is not the right time to return for in-person learning.

"This is not a perfect plan, and in fact, I would say it is a less than stellar plan, because it doesn't include the chorus of voices that would be necessary to do this successfully," CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said.

Gates said CPS is not listening enough to parents on what it would take to get them to send their children back into school buildings.

The teachers union leader said the CTU and school administrators have been meeting to work out plans for returning to in-person learning, however, she said, "It doesn’t work when we don’t work together. You know, that’s just the bottom line. And their insistence on doing this alone is delaying a plan that gives all of us confidence that we can do this better."

Gates said testing has to be a "huge part" of any return to in-person learning plan and remote learning has to be made "more sustainable."

Meanwhile, CPS Chief Education Officer LaTonya McDade said there are no plans yet to have high schoolers return for in-person learning.

"High schools have been a challenge across the nation. No school district has really cracked that nut in how you can bring high school students back in the same way that you can bring back elementary," she said.

She said keeping students physically distant in high schools is a major concern.

When elementary school students return for in-person instruction, everyone will be required to wear face-coverings, there will be HEPA air filters in classrooms, and screen guards have been placed in high-traffic areas.