CPS aims to reopen high schools April 19 pending ‘ongoing’ CTU negotiations

Achieving that goal would give CPS high schoolers up to 18 days in the classroom before school breaks for the summer in mid-June.

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Assistant Principal Matthew Swanson walks inside Whitney M. Young Magnet High School on the first day back to school Tuesday morning, Sept. 8, 2020.

Assistant Principal Matthew Swanson walks inside Whitney M. Young Magnet High School on the first day back to school Tuesday morning, Sept. 8, 2020.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Public Schools officials will aim to reopen high schools at the start of the fourth academic quarter on April 19, the district announced Tuesday, even as ongoing negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union leave that target date unsettled.

A mid-April reopening would resume in-person high school classes for the first time in over a year and would match plans several suburban districts have set out over the past few weeks.

“Providing high school students the option to safely return on April 19 is a top priority for the district, and we will continue meeting regularly with CTU representatives as we strive to reach a consensus that provides the smoothest possible transition for our families and staff,” schools chief Janice Jackson wrote in a letter to families and staff.

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Discussions with the teachers union have been productive, Jackson said, and the April date is one of “several concepts the parties have discussed.”

But in a statement Tuesday evening, the union said “we have no agreement,” criticized the district’s announcement as “more unilateralism” and accused CPS of distorting the status of negotiations.

“The mayor and CPS cannot set a date for return, then inevitably blame educators if any problems meeting that deadline arise. Instead, the district must work with parents, students, educators and all stakeholders in crafting a safe plan for high school return to in-person instruction,” the union said.

Jackson said the district is aiming to open in-person learning to all high school grades — deviating from its original plan last fall to only allow freshmen and sophomores to return. CPS and CTU are discussing a hybrid learning model that would put “nearly all interested students” in classrooms two days each week, she said, mirroring CPS elementary and middle schools.

Any high school deal between CPS and CTU will need to be sorted out soon with the end of the school year nearing. Achieving that April 19 goal would give high schoolers who choose in-person learning a total of 18 days in the classroom before school breaks for the summer in mid-June. Any further delay would cut two days of in-person classes per week.

CPS is hosting a virtual town hall for high school families Wednesday — its second in as many weeks — to discuss the latest in reopening planning. Families are expected to let the district know by Friday whether they’d like to return to classrooms next quarter or stay remote.

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