Afternoon Edition: Jan. 4, 2021

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

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Nancy Curran points out teachers on the screen as her son Oliver Curran identifies them at their home in Gold Coast.

Anthony Vazquez/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.

Happy New Year, everyone! This afternoon will be cloudy with a high near 30 degrees following some snow showers this morning. More snow is in the forecast for tonight, which will see a low of around 28 degrees. Tomorrow will be sunny with a high near 34.

Top story

Frustrations of a CPS special ed parent: ‘Why are other kids reading and not my son?’

Oliver Curran loves to talk. To him, watching news about politics or chatting with his mom is more fun than playing with toy trucks.

As much as he loves talking, Oliver, 12, can’t read, his mother, Nancy Curran, said. Curran brought her concern to Oliver’s special education team at Coonley Elementary School in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood, but instructors told her Oliver just needed more time, she said.

That was more than a year ago, Curran said. Now, with Oliver attending school virtually due to the pandemic, Curran has noticed other students are already reading in her son’s seventh-grade class of fellow special education students.

“Why are other kids reading and not my son?” said Curran, of Streeterville. “I’m very concerned about that, and I’m not really being taken seriously.”

Oliver is one of more than 63,000 students in CPS — 18% of the student body, according to the district’s 2020 report card — and one of more than 7 million students across the nation who have learning accommodations through Individualized Education Programs or other defined plans, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Remote learning has opened a window for parents to peer into their students’ classrooms, which was difficult to do before the coronavirus pandemic. At Chicago Public Schools, some parents of children with disabilities say they are disheartened by services they believe fail to meet students’ needs and are upset by the low expectations some educators have for their children.

Mo Buti, who founded a Chicago advocacy organization, AiepA, for people with autism and other disabilities, said her clients observing their children’s virtual classes are realizing they aren’t always being challenged in school.

One of Buti’s clients recently noticed their son’s sixth-grade CPS class still has morning circle and song time, which Buti said is more typical of activities for younger kids.

“For the first time ever, parents are getting a snapshot of what school looks like for their child,” Buti said. “The most, kind of, sad thing is that many parents are realizing maybe the level of their child or the low expectations of their child.”

The story doesn’t end here. Keep reading Clare Proctor’s report.

More news you need

  1. Some Chicago Public Schools teachers chose to stay home and continue teaching remotely despite being expected to return to school today. The decision came after several months of campaigning by the Chicago Teachers Union to put CPS’ reopening plan on hold.
  2. State health officials today announced another 79 Illinois residents have died of the coronavirus and 5,059 new positive cases. Forty-one of those 79 deaths were in Cook County. Though a teen was among the fatalities, the majority of deaths — in both the county and state — involved people at least 60 years old.
  3. Drivers in Chicago caught going 6 mph to 10 mph over the posted speed limit will begin getting warning notices on Jan. 15. The grace period will continue until March 1, when they’ll start receiving $35 tickets.
  4. President Donald Trump badgered and pleaded with Georgia’s election chief to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the state, suggesting in a telephone call that the official “find” enough votes to hand Trump the victory. Rep. Adam Kinzinger said in the wake of the call, no member of Congress could object to the election results with a “clean conscience.”
  5. When spiraling COVID-19 caseloads created lockdowns at hospitals nationwide, loved ones weren’t the only ones prevented from visiting patients in crisis. COVID also changed the way hospital chaplains bring comfort and consolation to patients, their families and hospital staff in need.
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A bright one

With a hitch or two, Cook County clerk presides over first-of-the-year online wedding

Ashley Graff had some pre-wedding jitters today, but they had nothing to do with finally tying the knot after an 11-year engagement.

Her concern was about the wedding guests — most of whom she’d probably never met. “Well, I didn’t expect to win, I guess,” said Graff, 36. “I didn’t know it was going to be broadcast when I signed up.”

Graff and her fiance, Undra Baldwin, 37, who live in Elgin, entered Cook County Clerk Karen A. Yarbrough’s lottery to win the first marriage license of 2021 and a live wedding via Zoom that included free flowers, as well as virtual dance and cooking lessons.


Ashley Graff and Undra Baldwin of Elgin were married today in a virtual ceremony officiated by Cook County Clerk Karen Yarbrough.


Graff and Baldwin were originally runners-up. The first couple picked chose to make different arrangements for their wedding.

Yarbrough typically conducts the first-of-the-year wedding in person, but the coronavirus threw a wrench into those plans. So Yarbrough conducted the wedding remotely. 

Graff, an administrative assistant, and Baldwin, a machine operator, were dressed for the occasion. They held hands in a hotel room in Schaumburg, where they celebrated Graff’s birthday Sunday.

“We don’t even know who is at your wedding today because this is going to be on Facebook and everybody is going to see you,” Yarbrough said as the ceremony got underway.

As it turned out, there were 175 views and 23 comments — all of them appropriately sweet. “I’m crying. You’re so beautiful,” said one viewer.

Read Stefano Esposito’s full story here.

From the press box

With the Bears preparing to face the Saints in the playoffs Sunday, coach Matt Nagy said he hasn’t talked to the team about returning next year. However, it seems likely that Nagy, GM Ryan Pace and quarterback Mitch Trubisky will be back after a second playoff trip in three years, Jason Lieser writes.

And Cubs fans disappointed about Len Kasper’s move to White Sox radio got some welcomed news today with Jon “Boog” Sciambi, a popular broadcaster at ESPN, being named the new play-by-play announcer for Marquee. He’ll be joined by analyst Jim Deshaies.

Your daily question ☕

Are you participating in Dry January this year? Tell us why or why not.

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

Thursday, we asked you: What are your goals for 2021? Here’s what some of you said…

“Focus on my health and spending time with friends and family.” — Elizabeth Gatzke

“Check into going to college and becoming a medical assistant.” — Jeri Clark

“My goal is to save money.” — Christian Reyes

“Come back to Chicago if only for a visit. I had to move away for family 2 years ago. I miss it so much it hurts.” — Chris Grace

“To not get COVID or bring it home to my 77-year-old mother. Other than that, I’m good.” — Sherronda Bohanon

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

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