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CPS proposes going back to school in August, ditching traditional post-Labor Day start

The move — which hasn’t been finalized and will still need board approval — would be a departure for a district that has long been one of the few in the state to stick with a September start.

A Student sits in class at Hawthorne Scholastic Academy at 3319 N Clifton Ave in Lakeview, Monday, March 1, 2021
A student sits in class at Hawthorne Scholastic Academy at 3319 N Clifton Ave in Lakeview, Monday, March 1, 2021.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Families and educators hoping to unwind this summer after a stressful, unprecedented school year may get an ever so slightly shorter break than expected.

For the first time in years, Chicago Public Schools officials are proposing an Aug. 30 start date for the 2021-22 school year, a week earlier than the usual Tuesday after Labor Day.

In a feedback form made public Wednesday, the district said the August start would “help minimize summer learning loss after an already disrupted 2020-21 school year,” and would “provide additional instructional time to high school students in advance of high-stakes spring exams such as SAT, PSAT, AP and IB.”

CPS also noted classes beginning a week sooner in the fall would mean the 2022 summer break would also start a week earlier than usual.

Though the district didn’t mention this reason, the change would also avoid a conflict with Jewish families and educators who were concerned the usual start date — which this year falls on the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah — would force them to choose between their religion’s new year celebration and the first day of school. Several parents addressed that issue at last month’s school board meeting, urging CPS to make a switch.

The move — which hasn’t been finalized and will still need board approval — would be a departure for a district that has long been one of the few in the state to stick with a post-Labor Day start. CPS tried to end summer break in August at the start of the 2013-14 school year, but abysmal attendance rates the first week prompted a switch back to September.

Elsewhere in the state, at least two dozen districts in Cook County — with dozens more in DuPage, Kane, Lake and Will — have started bringing their kids back to the classroom by mid-August, three weeks before CPS.

Those districts have helped mark a seismic change in Illinois. In 2004, only 16 of the 1,006 school districts statewide — less than 2% — had teachers or students back by August 14, according to records kept by the Illinois State Board of Education. By 2019, 502 of the state’s 910 districts — more than 55% — saw teachers back or classes getting underway by that date.

Those looking to provide feedback on the schedule change can do so at bit.ly/cpsCalendarSY22 by March 17.