CPS families and organizers draft demands to improve remote learning

More than 300 CPS parents, mentors and community organizers came together Friday to discuss ways for CPS to improve remote learning.

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A student works remotely on a computer.

CPS families and community organizers create a list of demands for improving remote learning, saying that the district is not doing enough for online learners.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Hundreds of Chicago Public Schools parents and education advocates said Friday the district could improve remote learning by prioritizing internet accessibility, special education students, and expanding learning hubs.

More than 300 CPS family members, mentors and community organizers on Friday discussed the Trust Learning Care plan, which includes a list of demands for CPS meant to advance remote learning.

Jianan Shi, executive director at Raise Your Hand for Illinois Public Education, said they expect to deliver the plan to CPS next week. The plan was drafted with input from dozens of community members over the course of several days.

“We’re not pitting parents against one another,” Shi said. “We want to create spaces that are healing and open to hear the needs of both families who are choosing remote and families choosing hybrid.”

Several parents who spoke during the meeting said they favor continuing remote learning in a better format.

The event was hosted by Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Raise Your Hand and Southwest Organizing Project. Many of the groups have been some of the district’s harshest critics in the past.

Jazmin Cerda, a parent organizer with the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council and a CPS alumna, said remote students have not been at the center of thoughtful planning.

“Before the pandemic, we were already in crisis,” Cerda. “Now that my child goes to a CPS school, I don’t want her to struggle like I did.”

Here are some of their demands to improve remote learning:

  • Creating a public technology support center through CPS that can be accessed for free by students and their families.
  • Prioritizing special education students who need more resources and a stronger support system. Nicole Abreu, a CPS parent with a diverse learner at home, said some low cost solutions to help with this are focusing on small group work and keeping a tightly regulated schedule. Abreu said CPS should honor Individualized Educational Plans and not use special education teachers or classroom assistants for duties other than supporting specific students.
  • Having more mental health services and providers accessible to students and their parents.
  • Applying for grants to allow low-income schools to make home learning kits and engage in more creative activities with supplies that go beyond the bare necessities.
  • Expanding learning hubs fivefold. Learning hubs are sites hosted by CPS or community-based organizations where a limited number of students attend remote classes in a supervised environment. Because many parents of CPS students are essential workers who can’t work from home, advocates argued more safe spaces should be available for students to learn with adults present.

Abreu said while she is able to keep her kids learning remotely at home, she acknowledges it is difficult to choose for other parents.

“It has definitely been a big mental load for parents who are caught in between loving and caring for their teachers and wanting them to be safe, and those who need to send their kids back — trying to reconcile those two things,” Abreu said.

CPS officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

In emails sent to CPS families and staff Friday evening, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson said while teachers have done everything in their power to make remote learning as successful as possible, it is important to the city’s recovery that schools open safely.

“There are limits to remote learning, no matter how many improvements are made,” the email said. “Our children are suffering — especially our most vulnerable — and it’s resulting in absenteeism, failing grades, depression, isolation and more. We must act now to protect our children.”

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