Crash Course to Chicago Public Schools Reopening Plan During COVID-19 Pandemic

Girl in school

Crash Course to Chicago Public Schools Reopening Plan During COVID-19 Pandemic

December 29, 2020 • ByMorgan Kuhn

“While remote learning has allowed many of our students to continue their studies over the past eight months, the reality is that our Black and Latinx students, our youngest students, and highest-need learners have not been equitably served. The decision to begin in-person learning this January will restore their access to high-quality instruction and is the result of balancing our commitment to equity with our current public health situation.” – Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot

Chicago Public Schools announced that they are reopening schools following winter break. CPS has been working closely with the Chicago Department of Public Health to ensure the safety of all students and staff. Children enrolled in pre-k and moderate and intensive cluster programs will return to in person learning on Monday, January 11, 2021. Students enrolled in K-8 will return to the classroom on Monday, February 1, 2021. At this time, general high school students will continue with remote learning while CPS continues to work on options for in-person learning in 2021. Families are still provided with the option to continue with remote learning during this time if they do not want their student to return to in person learning.

As the new year approaches, we continue to adapt to new daily routines, such as health screenings. Chicago Public Schools is requiring families, students, and staff to complete a daily health screening before arriving at a CPS building or school. This is one of the many safety protocols CPS is enforcing to keep Chicago safe. Chicago Public Schools has added the following into their reopening framework as they navigate in person learning during the COVID-19 global pandemic: 

  • Face coverings: Cloth face coverings will be required during the school day and will be provided to all staff and students. There will be limited times throughout the day where students may remove their masks such as lunchtime.
  • Pods: Learning pods will be incorporated into the new school framework to allow for social distancing and limit exposure due to smaller classrooms. 
  • Daily health screenings: Staff and students will be asked to complete a daily symptom screening and temperature check for those learning or working in CPS buildings. Daily screenings can be accessed via email/text message, or an online form. At the start of each day, school staff will check the status of each child’s health screening report and take their temperature before they are admitted to their classroom. Children that did not pass their health screening or whose temperature is 100.4 degrees or higher will be asked to be picked up as soon as possible. Daily screenings will become available at 4:30 a.m. and must be completed each morning. Screening reports completed the night before will be counted as invalid. Within the screening reports, students will be asked a variety of questions regarding their symptoms, recent travel, or any exposure to COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 contract tracing: CPS has hired additional staff to support with identifying close contacts to reduce the transmission of COVID-19. CPS will work closely with CDPH to make sure that individuals identified as close contacts for COVID-19 exposure are connected with resources for testing and monitoring.
  • HEPA filters and air quality assessments: Every classroom and front office will be provided with its own HEPA purifier. A HEPA purifier filters over 99.99% of airborne viruses, bacteria, and mold. The filters have been made possible by an $8.5 million investment by CPS.
  • Added custodians: CPS is in the process of hiring 400 additional custodians to help maintain COVID-19 cleaning protocols.
    Sanitizer stations: CPS has incorporated 50,000 hand sanitizer stations within the school buildings throughout the district to support regular hand sanitizing. 
  • Disinfectant cleaning supplies: CPS has budgeted for over $2 million to secure 86,000 disinfectant wipes for offices, classrooms, and high traffic areas within CPS buildings. 
  • Hospital-grade disinfectant sprayers: Each CPS school has a hospital-grade mister spray unit that will allow for maximum disinfection.
  • Community notifications: CPS will post confirmed COVID cases on their website.
  • Sneeze glass barriers and signage: CPS has installed barriers to protect staff from exposure to visitors as well as new policies and procedures signage placed around the building.
  • Testing: CPS and CDPH will facilitate access to free testing with established primary care providers or city partners for students or staff who are symptomatic or have been in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 

If your student is returning to in-person learning, start preparing them for the adjustments now. Their school day will look different, but with preparation, they will be able to adjust. Start practicing wearing a mask indoors and model what lunchtime may look like. Begin starting each day with health screening questions to monitor symptoms and practice temperature test. Tell your student that they will be learning and playing with a small group of students when they return to the classroom. Continue with frequent hand washing and sanitizing. Finally, show your child what six feet apart looks like to maintain social distancing. Model stretching out your arms to show how far it should feel and use a tape measurer to identify the distance visually.

Information from this article was provided by the Chicago Public Schools website. More information regarding opening schools, remote learning guide, school day examples, and more can be found on their website. Reopening guides can provide more detailed information and they are available in both English and Spanish.

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