Remote learning will return this fall for medically fragile students despite in-person mandate

The students will have the option to learn remotely through a centralized system that does not require teachers to instruct them simultaneously with students in the classroom.

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Students walk down the hall at Nicholas Senn High School in Edgewater on April 23, 2021.

Students returned to Nicholas Senn High School in Edgewater in April.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Medically fragile and immunocompromised Chicago Public Schools students will have a centralized virtual learning option in the fall, while full-time in-person learning will be mandatory for all other children, officials said Wednesday.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson said at the monthly Board of Education meeting Wednesday that the district was “incredibly excited” to see state education officials support a full-time return to classrooms last week.

Between now and the late-August start of the school year, officials plan to develop guidance for the full return and re-engage families who didn’t opt to go back to their schools this spring.

The virtual option will mean that teachers will not have to simultaneously instruct students in-person along with remote students, as they have since schools reopened this semester.

Jackson said vaccinations will be important to resuming mandatory in-person classes, and the district has four sites dedicated to student and parent vaccinations with no appointments necessary. Officials are looking to reach out to families over the summer to keep letting people know where to get a shot.

Many families of younger students, though, have worried about returning before their kids are eligible for a vaccine. Children under 12 are not yet able to get shots. The district has said students who can’t yet be vaccinated will only be eligible for remote learning if they’re under a quarantine order.

Addressing the board Wednesday, Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey said he would still like to see the district set a goal for a percentage of students to be vaccinated by the fall and put together a more comprehensive plan for outreach.

Summer programs to serve 90K students

This summer will also be full of programming opportunities, the district said. CPS will have 18 summer programs that can serve up to 90,000 students, ranging from summer school to enrichment programming and jobs, and those are aside from the various options at the park district and libraries. The focus will be on meeting student needs, whether academic or social, and anyone looking for summer opportunities should check with their school’s principal, CPS CEO Janice Jackson said.

“I think this is probably the first time in my history in this role that we can honestly say that if a student wants to actively engage in a program or work this summer, we have an opportunity there for them,” Jackson said.

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