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CPS kids will graduate but might skip finals if CTU strikes

Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool, with Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson, at a recent press conference. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

If the Chicago Teachers Union strikes near the end of the school year, public school students can expect to graduate but might not take final exams, the district said Wednesday.

CPS had to develop some contingency plans “so that students can graduate and we can provide for families and school communities as normally as possible” in case teachers decide to walk just weeks before classes end, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool told members of the Board of Education at their monthly meeting on Wednesday.

He also quashed rumors of a “monthlong principal furlough,” saying, “we expect principals in the summer, planning for next year.”

CPS plans to give final exams during the week of June 13 but will cancel them if teachers strike, Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson told principals in an April 18 letter. Graduation ceremonies will be held regardless for high school seniors and elementary students, with help from nonunion and central staff if CTU members are walking picket lines, she said.

“The end of every school year is a busy time for you, your staff, and your students. Additionally, this year, there is the unfortunate possibility that a work stoppage will occur prior to June 21, 2016,” she wrote. “While we hope that a work stoppage will not occur, to make sure all necessary end-of-year tasks are completed, we’re providing this memo as a reference.”

She urged principals to have teachers log their students’ grades regularly and to make sure they are conducting necessary classroom observations for teacher evaluations, too.

Jackson also reminded principals to collect accurate contact information for all students “due to the potentially fluid nature of the remaining weeks in this school year. . . . Information may need to move quickly, and it is imperative you are able to facilitate that for your school community.”

The CTU could strike as early as May, now that it has rejected recent recommendations by a third-party, independent fact-finder. Whether they will do it so close to the end of the school year remains unknown, though at a meeting on Monday, members of the Big Bargaining Team leaned toward walking out in September rather than next month.

CTU membership, which already authorized a strike, would decide whether to shut schools down so close to the end of the school year or wait until the fall when classes resume. Delegates are scheduled to meet next week.