CPS expected to reopen schools to pre-kindergarten and some special education students next month; others will continue remote learning

Chicago Public Schools plans to bring its youngest students back to classrooms next quarter, according to sources briefed Thursday on the district’s plan.

While the district has not released details to the public, sources say their plan would involve in-person learning in some capacity for prekindergarten and some clusters of special education students. All other students would continue with remote learning full-time when the second quarter begins Nov. 9.

The Chicago Teachers Union has not issued a formal response but tweeted, “We have learned that a 3 p.m. meeting has been called for principals today, presumably for CPS and the mayor to inform school administrations of their plans to return SPED and early childhood ed students back to unsafe school buildings in November.”

District officials did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Earlier this week, CPS CEO Janice Jackson and Mayor Lori Lightfoot promised families a plan would be out “very soon.”

Lightfoot seemed to be foreshadowing the decision to bring preschool and some special education students back when she said, “I am concerned about whether or not we are doing enough for certain categories of students, particularly our youngest learners and our diverse learners, and we’ve got to make decisions that maximize the opportunities for everyone but particularly those students who… are having the biggest challenges in a remote learning environment.”

Meanwhile Thursday, the seven-day rolling average of positive coronavirus cases in Chicago climbed to 442, up 32% from last week.

Over the summer, as CPS leaders contemplated whether to hold any in-person classes during the first quarter, officials said remote learning would be triggered if Chicago’s rolling daily case average surpassed 400, or 200 with concerning factors, such as rapidly increasing cases.

Those guidelines allowed hybrid learning with fewer than 400 daily cases, and a full return to in-person school would require fewer than 100 daily cases without a vaccine. But CPS has not provided clear reopening criteria this time around.

As of Thursday Chicago’s seven-day rolling average for newly confirmed coronavirus cases was 442, up from 332 last week. And public health officials on Thursday reported the highest number of newly confirmed coronavirus cases in a single day since the pandemic began and the most deaths in a day since late June. Incidences of COVID-19 have caused some suburban schools that were in-person to go back online, while others are moving ahead with blended reopening plans. International Charter Schools and Acero, have announced they will continue remote learning next quarter.

This is a developing story. Check back for more details.

Tribune reporter John Byrne contributed.

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