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Afternoon Edition: Sept. 8, 2020

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

An empty classroom at Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior Academy of Social Justice in Englewood on the first day back to school this morning.
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.

With Labor Day behind us, it’s already starting to feel like fall: This afternoon will continue to be rainy, with a high near 64 degrees. Tonight’s low will be around 60. Tomorrow will be cloudy, with more rain in the forecast, and a high near 65 degrees.

Top story

Students and teachers bring energy to CPS’ new school year despite remote learning challenges

Technology issues and remote learning anxieties aside, many Chicago Public Schools students and teachers were excited to get the new school year started today.

There were still questions to be answered, such as how many children still lack quality internet, and important topics to address amidst the coronavirus pandemic and a summer of racial justice protests.

Nonetheless, Nina Hike, a chemistry teacher at Westinghouse College Prep, said she’s energized for the start of the year despite her nerves about her internet connection potentially cutting out during a class.

Holding up a laboratory flask, Hike said she’s looking forward to the unique dynamic of teaching students in their homes: “In the classroom, it’s easy to kind of gauge the student energy,” Hike said. “But I feel like my energy is going to come through the computer screen. I even bought little beakers and flasks so that I can do demos … to engage students.”

As far as potential technology challenges, Hike said she and other teachers will gauge the year’s starting point today and outreach will continue until all kids have the tools they need.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s office and CPS officials have said access to computers is not expected to be the barrier it proved to be earlier this year, after 128,000 devices were distributed in the spring and another 17,000 were handed out ahead of this school year.

Officials also announced the “Chicago Connected” program in June, pledging to provide free, high-speed internet to the homes of 100,000 CPS students who lacked reliable broadband access. A little over two months later, the families of 24,000 kids have signed up for the program; the rest may still lack quality internet access at the start of the school year.

“We are not leaving anybody behind this year,” the mayor said today at King Elementary. “We want to make sure that every single student in CPS has the same opportunity to have a fulfilling and nurturing learning experience as they would if they were physically in the classroom.”

Lauren Kullman, a drama teacher at Nightingale Elementary in Gage Park, said one of her chief concerns is checking how students are doing overall during the pandemic. Gage Park is among the hardest-hit communities in the state by COVID-19, and in May suffered the loss of a 12-year-old boy, the youngest coronavirus death in the state at the time.

“I really don’t know how my families are. I don’t know if people lost people. I don’t know where they are with food insecurity and just all kinds of emotional health,” Kullman said. “And that’s going to be my driving force for as long as I need it to be.”

With that in mind, Kullman, who set herself up with four monitors, couldn’t wait to see her students: “My energy is going to be through the roof when I see the kids. If they turn on their camera I’m going to cry because I’ve missed them,” she said. “We’re going to go for it. We’re going to do it.”

Read Nader Issa’s full story here.

More news you need

  1. Eight people, including an 8-year-old girl, were killed and 48 others were injured in shootings across Chicago over Labor Day weekend. Five of the wounded were under 18 years old.
  2. The 8-year-old girl who was fatally shot while riding in a car with family members over the weekend was the unintended target of a gang shooting, police said today. Dajore Wilson is the sixth child under 10 years old to be murdered in Chicago since late June.
  3. Mayor Lori Lightfoot warned today in the strongest terms yet that employee layoffs she has long called her “second to last resort” will be needed to erase a 2021 budget shortfall she now pegs at $1.25 billion. Lightfoot refused to say how many city employees may lose their jobs.
  4. A trip south of the state border to Kentucky will now cost Chicago travelers a two-week isolation period when they return home as public health officials added the state to the city’s COVID-19 travel quarantine order list today. Meanwhile, officials removed California and Puerto Rico from the list.
  5. Mayor Lori Lightfoot dismissed President Donald Trump’s threat to yank federal funding from Chicago and other school systems that embrace the New York Times’ 1619 Project as “more hot air.” She noted that the president has no power to yank funding from school systems that teach the 1619 Project, which reframes U.S. history through the lens of slavery.

A bright one

Teen mom’s life looking up after abuse, homelessness: ‘It’s been hard. I’m not going to lie’

At 15, Kitty Perez became homeless after her father kicked her out of the house. A short while later, she got pregnant, and she says her life turned around. As soon as she learned she was carrying a child, she stopped using drugs.

“I wasn’t really ready for a kid,” Perez said. “I was homeless when I found out I was pregnant. Right then, I started home-hopping to keep myself under a roof the whole time I was pregnant.”

She later found her footing at the Crib, the Night Ministry’s youth shelter. Though the minimum age for the Crib is 18, Perez said a sympathetic staffer let her in anyway, which helped on her journey toward independence.

Katsumi “Kitty” Perez, 19, with her daughter Xochitl, 2, at Warren Park.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

The now-19-year-old has an apartment in Cicero and is working toward a future: “I barely finished junior high,” she said. “But I’m going back to school. Truman College is doing GED classes. … I graduated from HIV testing and counseling. I’m able to help the community helping me.”

She also has job interviews coming up.

“I’m doing great,” she said. “I’m not going to lie. I’m doing great.”

Read Neil Steinberg’s full interview with Perez here.

From the press box

With Sunday’s season opener approaching, Bears general manager Ryan Pace reiterated his faith in quarterback Mitch Trubisky and shared his thoughts on other issues facing the team.

Despite all the negativity that has surrounded him since he was drafted, Trubisky has never lost his confidence in himself, writes columnist Rick Telander.

With only 19 games left in the baseball season, Daryl Van Schouwen looks at the situations that could cost the White Sox a playoff spot.

Your daily question ☕

How did the first day of school go for you and your kids today?

Reply to this email (please include your first name and where you live) and we might include your answer in the next Afternoon Edition.

Friday, we asked you to tell us about how your Labor Day weekend plans differed from previous years. Here’s what some of you said…

“Last year I spent it with family surrounded by little ones. This time, because of the pandemic, I won’t be doing it.” — Genevieve Williams

“We usually have a bbq. We will this year, too, just with fewer guests.” — Peter J. Gallanis

“Usually with family out of state. This year, I’ll be on my couch like I have been every single day since March…” — Bonnie Richardson

“Outdoors, family’s house, nothing changed. It has been a great summer actually.” — Erika Hoffman

Thanks for reading the Chicago Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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