Coronavirus brings unlikely classroom: A 56-story apartment tower in Streeterville

Ryan Ori, Chicago Tribune

A 56-story apartment tower in the Streeterville neighborhood plans to convert some of its office space to small classrooms, betting that frazzled families will seek space outside the home to conduct remote learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 490-unit Optima Signature, a skyscraper at 220 E. Illinois St. known for its bright red lower levels, is no ordinary schoolhouse.

Yet with many parents working from home since March amid COVID-19, and with many schools planning to conduct classes virtually this fall, the building’s owner believes there will be a demand for learning pods. So-called “pandemic pods” and “micro-schools” allow small groups of kids from close-knit families to study together in person with a teacher, tutor or parent.

Widespread closures of schools and day cares has left Chicago-area workers and employers scrambling for solutions.