About those 5 lost school days in CPS...

It’s a sore spot with educators that they lost pay, but it’s their union that chose a walkout — really, an illegal strike. What’s worse, though, is that children lost days of teaching that they won’t fully get back.

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Students and parents arrive at Jordan Community Public School, 7414 N. Wolcott Ave., in Rogers Park on the North Side, Wednesday morning, Jan. 12, 2022. Students returned to in-person learning Wednesday after a week away while the Chicago Public Schools district and the Chicago Teachers Union negotiated stronger COVID-19 protections. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Students and parents arrive at Jordan Community Public School in Rogers Park on Jan. 12 after a week away when teachers walked out over COVID-19 protections.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

There’s one thing to regret about the Chicago Board of Education’s decision not to make up five school days that were lost due to that January standoff with the Chicago Teachers Union.

It’s that 340,000-plus school children lost a week of full-time instruction that they won’t fully make up.

As for teachers losing out on pay, too bad. It’s a sore spot for them, but as the saying goes, that’s on them.

That’s the risk their union took when it chose what was essentially an illegal — and as it turned out, futile — strike. Teachers lost a week’s pay, with no guarantee of making it up, in a dispute over COVID-19 safety protocols that should have been solved in talks with CPS while school remained in session.

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The union got very little of what it asked for, after putting children out of school for five days.

Meanwhile, it’s a safe bet that the January fiasco was a sore spot with parents, too, who had to make child care arrangements on the fly right after sending their children back to the classroom.

With the money saved by not adding additional days to the school year, CPS will offer after school and Saturday programs, which teachers can be paid for. That’s at least something to benefit children, and schools should be given clear instructions and deadlines for planning programs to help students get back on track with learning.

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All of this brings us to next school year, when addressing learning loss — as well as student mental health, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic — should be paramount.

The new 2022-23 school calendar has a start date of Aug. 22, which will put CPS firmly in line with suburban districts that start the school year before Labor Day. The long-time, traditional post-Labor Day start in CPS put city schoolchildren at a disadvantage, especially when it came to preparing for Advanced Placement, SAT and other important tests.

In something of a surprise, principals, teachers and students preferred Aug. 22 over Aug. 29, according to CPS. Parents preferred the later date.

It’s important for CPS to gather and consider feedback before making major decisions like this one. But in the end, district leaders have to do what’s best for children’s education.

That means back to school before Labor Day — and keep it that way.

Send letters to letters@suntimes.com

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