73% of students who opted in now showing up for in-person classes, CPS says — but vast majority remain home

The district says a higher percentage of students who said they intended to attend in-person classes actually did the longer schools were open.

SHARE 73% of students who opted in now showing up for in-person classes, CPS says — but vast majority remain home

For the week of March 8 through 12 — the first week when all eligible elementary students were allowed back in classrooms — about three-quarters of those students who were expected to show up actually did, according to CPS.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools on Friday released the most comprehensive figures to date on school attendance since in-person learning resumed in February, with the administration saying they are “encouraged” by the numbers although the vast majority of students remain remote.

For the week of March 8 through 12 — the first week when all elementary grade levels were allowed back in classrooms — an average of 73 percent of those students who were expected to show up actually reported to schools, according to CPS.

The district also said in-person attendance increased the longer schools have been open, pointing to the 55 percent of pre-K and students enrolled in cluster programs who attended in person on Feb. 11, which increased to 69 percent on March 12.

That group was the first to return to in-person learning following the district-wide closure due to the coronavirus pandemic, with K-5 students returning March 1 and grades 6-8 coming back March 8.

“While in-person attendance rates aren’t comparable to pre-pandemic levels, the district is encouraged to see an increase in school-based attendance the longer students have that option available, especially among our youngest learners and students in cluster programs,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said in a statement. “Schools offer children a stable learning environment, and we look forward to welcoming additional students back to the classroom April 19.”

Between Feb. 11 and March 12, about 49,000 students have attended at least one day of in-person classes, according to the district. That’s far fewer than the 77,000 who initially signed up for in-person learning in December, although the number planning to attend in person had dropped to about 60,000 by the time schools reopened.

That means that only a quarter of the district’s 205,000 preschool through 8th grade students have attended classes in person so far this year. And even then, only an average of 24,315 students were in school on any given day in mid-March because half of in-person students attend Monday and Tuesday, while the other half attends Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is reserved for remote learning for all students.

The Chicago Teachers Union highlighted the low numbers of students attending in person and criticized the district for not doing more to improve remote learning since so many students continue to learn from home.

“Our families need assurances of safety, and it’s clear that the overwhelming majority of the families we serve simply do not trust claims of equity from the mayor and CPS,” the union said in a statement. “Educators knew because we listen to parents, and we listen to students. Principals knew, as did every stakeholder with ties to the communities they live and work in. ... They didn’t listen. And the numbers speak for themselves.

Also in the data released Friday, on any given day during the week of March 8 through 12:

  • About 89 percent of white students who opted for in-person learning showed up; about 60 percent of Black students did, as did 77 percent of Latino students and 83 percent of Asian students.
  • About 57 percent of homeless students who opted for in-person learning actually showed up, as did 76 percent for whom English is a second language, 70 percent of special education students and 68 percent of students from low-income families.

CPS expects the number of in-person students to grow for the fourth quarter, which starts April 19. That is also the target date for high schools to reopen for the first time this year.

Contributing: Nader Issa

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