Students joyous, sad as momentous CPS school year wraps for the summer

At the end of a year that marked most students’ return to in-person learning after two of the most challenging years in American education history, students seemed to have gained a new appreciation for school.

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Students and staff enjoy a burgers and other foods to celebrate the last day of school at Peace and Education Coalition Alternative High School at 4946 S. Paulina St in Back of the Yards, Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Students and staff enjoy a burgers and other foods to celebrate the last day of school at Peace and Education Coalition Alternative High School at 4946 S. Paulina St in Back of the Yards, Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Typically, kids are pumped for their last day of school as they head out to summer break, the outdoors and warm weather.

And there certainly were laughs and excitement Tuesday as Chicago Public Schools classes wrapped until the fall — but it wasn’t all smiles.

At the end of a school year that marked most students’ return to in-person learning after two of the most challenging years in American education history, students seemed to have gained a new appreciation for school.

Ethan Acevedo, who just finished second grade at Chopin Elementary in West Town, said he has mixed feelings about the end of the school year.

“I’m a little sad I won’t be able to see my friends,” Ethan said.

Ethan, 8, is going to miss playing tag and hide and seek the most. But he’s still looking forward to spending time with his grandfather, who picked him up Tuesday. They’re planning to spend time at a water park, go swimming and go fishing in Lake Michigan this summer.

Ethan Acevedo heads home with his grandfather Angel after his last day of second grade at Chopin Elementary.

Ethan Acevedo heads home with his grandfather Angel after his last day of second grade at Chopin Elementary.

Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Any excitement Ethan might be missing for summer is made up by his granddad, Angel Acevedo.

“It’s great, he’s going to be with me all summer,” the grandfather said. “He’s my life.”

Kids at Chopin ran out to their parents at the end of the school day Tuesday, with a big group scream for joy when the exit door opened and bubbles filled the air.

Xailani Vargas-Modacure, like Ethan, was conflicted on the end of the year.

On one hand, she’s got at least one family trip on the books this summer and fun activities in between, like some ballgames with her dad.

On the other hand she’s leaving Chopin for a different school next year and is going to miss her friends.

“But I have their numbers so I’ll call them,” Xailani, 10, said.

Xailani Vargas-Modacure and her dad Ethan Modacure pose outside Chopin Elementary after the last day of school Tuesday.

Xailani Vargas-Modacure and her dad Ethan Modacure pose outside Chopin Elementary after the last day of school Tuesday.

Nader Issa/Sun-Times

Her last day of school featured a dance party and hugs with her friends and teachers. She’ll also spend some time at a friend’s house this summer.

And Xailani and her dad planned to kick off break in style with tacos and nachos Tuesday night.

“We’ve been planning it for months,” her dad, Etheria Modacure said.

Other schools celebrated the end of the school year on a scorching afternoon with parties and recess. Kids hit the basketball court outside Jensen Elementary in Lawndale. Faraday Elementary in East Garfield Park had a bouncy house and outdoor activities for its students, who were decked in lime green shirts.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, left, and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez, right, walk to the front of the gym before a press conference to celebrate the last of school at Peace and Education Coalition Alternative High School at 4946 S. Paulina St in Back of the Yards, Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, left, and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez, right, walk to the front of the gym before a press conference to celebrate the last of school at Peace and Education Coalition Alternative High School at 4946 S. Paulina St in Back of the Yards, Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez visited Peace and Education Coalition Alternative High School, an options school in Back of the Yards.

The mayor and district officials promoted summer job and program opportunities for students to fill their time and stay safe. And Martinez joked students would be back in no time, with the district’s pre-Labor Day start on Aug. 22.

“It’s been a challenging year,” Martinez told an auditorium of students, educators and reporters.

“I’m just excited that we were able to keep you in person at our schools. I’m excited that we were able to finish the year on a positive note.”

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