Chicago principals offer school reopening plan to ‘end divisive stalemate’ between district, teachers union

on Jan28
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An organization of Chicago principals has put forward a phased reopening plan for the city’s schools that it believes could “end the divisive stalemate between district officials and [the] Chicago Teachers Union.” 

The idea comes as Chicago Public Schools (CPS) — for the second day in a row — is instructing parents not to send their children to its facilities for any in-person learning as its fight against the union continues.

The two sides have not reached an agreement yet over reopening conditions during the coronavirus pandemic — and the standoff is putting the district’s expected date of Feb. 1 for bringing K-8 students back for in-person classes in peril. 

“We’re the ones they hand the plans off to, right?… There’s no more important group of people to get involved in that process than us,” Troy LaRaviere, the president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, said Wednesday in announcing his organization’s plan. “And for some inexplicable reason, the district did not do that and still continues to not consult us.” 

Pre-kindergarten students listen as their teacher reads a story at Dawes Elementary in Chicago, on Jan. 11. Chicago Public Schools wanted thousands of K-8 teachers and staff to return to classrooms Monday to prepare for the resumption of in-person learning, but now that return date has been delayed. (AP/Chicago Sun-Times)

Pre-kindergarten students listen as their teacher reads a story at Dawes Elementary in Chicago, on Jan. 11. Chicago Public Schools wanted thousands of K-8 teachers and staff to return to classrooms Monday to prepare for the resumption of in-person learning, but now that return date has been delayed. (AP/Chicago Sun-Times)

CHICAGO PARENTS TOLD TO NOT BRING KIDS TO SCHOOL AS IMPASSE CONTINUES 

“Even the NBA had enough sense to bring the players union in to help design the process that led to the successful resumption of their season,” he added. 

The organization’s plan calls for Chicago to begin its students’ return to school by only opening around 75 facilities and then scaling up every three to four weeks, if possible. 

“Open a small group of schools in a representative sample of Chicago communities where the administrative staff and an adequate number of teachers and paraprofessionals feel they have what is needed for a safe return. Make these staff a priority for vaccinations before the pilot starts,” it says. “Consider allowing some schools in the pilot to open in-person to specific grade levels to account for staffing or space shortages, and expand as readiness issues are addressed.” 

The plan, as an example, states that Chicago could have more than 400 of its 642 schools open for in-person learning by April 15 if it follows a safe and successful phased-in approach. 

“A pilot approach will allow the necessary stress test for the district to assess individual school needs versus the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the current plan,” it says. 

“Schools brought in for subsequent phases of the pilot would not have to endure the constant and confusing updates and changes to policies that we currently experience because the pilot period would give CPS time and space to develop and fine-tune a coherent package of guidance materials and supports based on the questions, concerns, and experiences of the schools in the initial pilot,” the plan adds. 

CHICAGO’S PLAN TO REOPEN SCHOOLS HITS ANOTHER BARRIER AS UNION THREATENS STRIKE 

The Chicago Principals and Administrators Association’s plan was drafted following a survey of 377 local principals and assistant principals — less than 17% of whom, they say, feel the district is prepared and ready to open schools on Feb. 1. 

“We salute the district’s goals,” LaRaviere said in a statement. “However, their plans are not realistic or safe for most of our schools.” 

LaRaviere said the survey revealed its members don’t believe there will be enough staff at schools to safely reopen, or enough safety supplies to guard against the spread of COVID-19. And, he said, the members haven’t received adequate guidance from the district on how to reopen the schools that have been closed since March. 

LaRaviere added that the organization submitted its plan to CPS on Tuesday. 

But Mayor Lori Lightfoot says the plan remains to welcome K-8 students on Monday, and the union has said its members will continue to teach remotely without a deal but will picket if they are locked out of the teaching systems. 

Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said the district implemented the kind of phased-in approach that the principals are pushing when it opened the schools up to pre-K and special education students this month. 

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP 

“They’ve been back in school for three weeks and the plan is working,” she said Wednesday during a school board meeting. 

However, statistics CPS provided to Fox News the same day indicated that only 485 — or around 28 percent of its pre-K and special education teachers — were in attendance Wednesday, down from around 66 percent (1,126 teachers) the day before.  

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 



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