More than 100,000 students missed the latest CPS strike makeup days

Student attendance was 62% on the second makeup day stemming from last fall’s 11-day teachers strike.

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chicago public schools make-up days

Students return to class at Roswell B. Mason Elementary School on the South Side after a Chicago Teachers Union strike closed schools for 11 days, Friday morning, Nov. 1, 2019.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

More than a third of Chicago Public Schools students didn’t show up to class in early January for the latest makeup days stemming from last fall’s 11-day teachers strike.

The newest totals released by schools officials Friday confirm at least some of parents’ concerns that the days added to the district’s schedule would feature half-empty classrooms that potentially involved little productivity.

The two makeup days earlier this month were Jan. 2 and 3, which normally would have been the last two days of winter break leading into a weekend.

That Thursday, 106,082 students — or about 36% of the more than 290,000 kids in district-run, non-charter schools — didn’t show up, according to CPS officials, while an unspecified number of the kids who did go were only there for part of the day. About 5,500 — or 18% — of the 31,452 teachers and support staff didn’t go, either.

Attendance was marginally better the next day, with 93,787 students missing Friday’s classes. About 100 more teachers and staff showed up.

A CPS spokeswoman declined to comment and pointed to CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade’s November statement when the days were announced.

“We understand that modifications to the school calendar can create real challenges for our families, and we have worked to add make-up days in a manner that prioritizes student learning and minimizes disruption to the fullest extent possible,” McDade said at the time.

On a typical day, 93% of students and 95% of teachers go to school. Meanwhile, the Friday before last year’s Memorial Day weekend, which CPS officials used as a comparison to the makeup days, 89% of students and 86% of teachers showed up.

The two days were the second and third makeup days from the strike. The first was the day before Thanksgiving, when about 66,000 students played hooky. The last two will be tacked on to the end of the school year June 17 and 18.

The issue of adding some of the 11 days missed during the Chicago Teachers Union’s two-week October strike became a divisive one as the walkout came to an end.

The CTU’s governing body voted Oct. 30 to accept the tentative agreement between the union’s bargaining committee and city and schools officials, but at the same time decided not to end the strike because Mayor Lori Lightfoot had refused to add any makeup days, which would help teachers earn back some of their lost money during the strike.

At a tense meeting the next day, union leaders and the mayor agreed to five makeup days. But when CPS later added them to the schedule, the district saw lots of backlash from parents and the union for the days that were chosen.

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