Afternoon Edition: Dec. 4, 2020

Today’s update is a 5-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Dr. Janice Jackson speaks while Mayor Lori Lightfoot listens during a press conference at King Academy of Social Justice in Englewood on the first day of the fall semester.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about a 5-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

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Afternoon Edition


Chicago’s most important news of the day, delivered every weekday afternoon. Plus, a bonus issue on Saturdays that dives into the city’s storied history.

This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 44 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 31 degrees. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 40, and Sunday will be partly sunny, with a slight chance of flurries, and a high near 40 degrees.

Top story

CPS will reopen next month even if only a fraction of students opt in — and most teachers will be required to return, CEO says

Chicago Public Schools will reopen in January even if only a small fraction of students opt to return to classrooms, schools CEO Janice Jackson said, and she warned that teachers without pre-existing conditions who simply “don’t show up” to school buildings will be fired.

What’s more, schools officials are so convinced that reopening schools is safe, they’re now working on a plan to bring back at least some high schools during the second semester, Jackson said in an interview with us. The district had expected to keep older students home while elementary schools return Feb. 1 and special education programs come back next month.

“We will educate any student who wants an in-person option. There is no threshold that we have to meet,” Jackson said, adding: “If 15% of the kids … decide that they’re gonna return at any given school, we will educate that 15% in-person.

“We believe that number will gradually grow over time as people become more confident in our plan.”

Parents of elementary and middle school students have until Monday to decide whether their kids will return to the classroom or continue remote learning. Those who choose remote learning will not get another opportunity to send their children back to school until April.

Teachers “don’t have a choice of opting in or out,” Jackson said, unless they submit a formal request for medical leave and are approved. Fear of contracting the coronavirus and safety concerns raised by the Chicago Teachers Union are not a legitimate excuse, she said.

“If they don’t show up to work, it will be handled the same way it’s handled in any other situation where an employee fails to come to work,” Jackson said.

However, teachers or staff with legitimate health concerns, including those that fall under the Family Medical Leave Act, will be able to opt out.

“We don’t want people who have pre-existing conditions coming to school, putting themselves in jeopardy,” she said.

But CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said Jackson’s “bullying” attempt to force teachers “fearful of their own lives” back into the classroom won’t work.

“To threaten people already dealing with high anxiety, with issues of high mortality doesn’t speak to the type of leadership that is necessary in a pandemic,” Davis Gates said. “You do not back people who need support and advocacy into corners. You engage them. You build coalitions. And you build out plans that are satisfactory to all of the stakeholders.”

Davis Gates said the CTU “will not be backed into a corner.”

Although officials are still going through the applications for medical leave, Jackson said she is confident that enough teachers and staff will show up to support in-person instruction. Pointing to trends across the country, she said “I don’t think Chicago is going to be the place where we don’t show up for our children.”

Keep reading — and listen to Fran Spielman’s interview with CPS CEO Janice Jackson — here.

More news you need

  1. Former Ald. Edward Vrdolyak was sentenced to 18 months in prison today in a long-running tax case. U.S. District Judge Robert Dow called the case “a particularly sorry story because this is two experienced lawyers who were involved in this crime.” The other was Vrdolyak’s co-defendant, Daniel Soso.
  2. The coronavirus is killing more Illinoisans than ever before, as public health officials today attributed 148 more deaths to the respiratory disease that has infected an additional 10,526 residents statewide. COVID-19 has claimed almost 1,000 lives in the last week alone.
  3. A 16-year-old girl was shot to death yesterday while returning to help a man being beaten by a group of people in Gage Park. No arrests have been made.
  4. Chicago Public Schools has extended the deadline to apply to schools for next year — which means families will find out even later which schools their students have been accepted to for the 2021-22 academic year. CPS officials said they were pushing back next Friday’s deadline to submit applications through the GoCPS website by a month, to Jan. 8.
  5. Nearly 6.1 million people cast ballots in last month’s election, bringing the overall turnout to nearly 73%, the Illinois State Board of Elections reported today. That’s the highest statewide turnout since the 1992 general election.
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A bright one

North Side magic shop hopes online fundraiser does the trick

No magic trick will solve the dire cash shortage facing one of the city’s last magic shops, Magic Inc., which has been around for nearly 100 years and is known internationally as a mecca for accomplished and aspiring prestidigitators.

“We have to re-up with our landlord and — how shall I say delicately — they’re not playing ball,” said Sandy Marshall, who owns the shop. “We kind of hope we can stay there, but time will tell.”

The owners and staff of the Ravenswood store hope an online fundraising drive will save the business. Marshall started a GoFundMe page over the weekend seeking $50,000. As of this morning, donations totaled $10,776.

Marshall said the magic shop is beloved for a number of reasons: “If you buy a trick online and can’t figure out the directions, you’re screwed. Magicians who work at our shop will show anyone who walks in how to perform a magic trick they’re struggling with, even if they didn’t come to us to buy it in the first place.”

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Luis Carreon says he took a train from his Southwest Side home to hang out at Magic Inc. “until they finally hired me.”

Mitch Dudek/Sun-Times

Celebrity magicians such as David Copperfield, Penn & Teller and David Blaine have frequented the shop, which has a magical bloodline that’s hard to find outside the pages of a Harry Potter book.

The shop has fanned the flame of curiosity in younger generations of magicians who start off wowing siblings, parents, friends and then larger groups. People like Julie Medina, 18, a senior at Lane Tech High School who started going to the shop around age 11.

“It’s been a big part of my life. I’d spend hours trying to perfect tricks,” she said.

Her most impressive trick: The Double Cross — where an X drawn on the magician’s hand vanishes and magically appears on the hand of a spectator.

The trick slays at holiday parties. “Lots of wows,” she said.

Read Mitch Dudek’s full story here.

From the press box

In addition to roster changes, the Cubs will have a new look in the broadcast booth next year now that play-by-play announcer Len Kasper is leaving Marquee Sports Network to join the White Sox announcing team at ESPN 1000.

The Bulls are also embracing change: New coach Billy Donovan has a very different philosophy than predecessor Jim Boylen, and the players like it, Joe Cowley writes.

Even though their season is falling apart, members of the Bears defense say they have not given up.Patrick Finley, Jason Lieser and Mark Potashdebate that in the Halas Intrigue podcast. And our experts offer their predictions for Sunday’s game against the Lions (noon, Fox-32).

Notre Dame looks to continue building its case for a spot in the College Football Playoff when the Fighting Irish face Syracuse on Saturday (1:30 p.m., NBC-5). 

And Illinois, which had an unexpected week off thanks to the coronavirus, faces Iowa tomorrow (2:30 p.m., FS1). The Hawkeyes will bring a five-game winning streak to Champaign. 

Your daily question☕

What’s been your best pandemic binge-watch, and what’s next on your list?

Email us(please include your first name and where you live) and we might feature your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday, we asked you: Who was the top artist on your Spotify Wrapped this year?Here’s what some of you said…

“I have discovered Doja Cat and it has changed my life. I’m a much happier person.”— Derrick Colon

“My top artist was Mushroomhead and surprisingly my music taste has leaned a bit more towards what I listened to as a teenager this year. With more time at home I’ve picked up the bass guitar again and started playing a lot of the music that inspired me to pick up the bass in the first place. Still a lot of rap and electronic, but metal had a definitive takeover of my Spotify over the last year.”— Adam D. Bush

“I’m an old school guy who discovered some nice young talent out there. Dua Lipa, I think that’s her name. Nice album.”— Kevin Moon

“Pink. I’m always playing her music, so definitely no change in my music taste.”— Juliana Pelaez

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