So far, so good – that is how Chicago Public Schools officials describe the first week of in-person learning for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov talked with CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade.
BRAD EDWARDS: So far, so good. That's how the Chicago Public School leaders described the first week of in-person learning for its K through fifth grade students, but there are still hurdles to jump before middle schoolers return next week. CBS2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov. Dana, you've been on top of this one at CBS-- CPS, rather, headquarters. One of those hurdles is going to be staffing.
DANA KOZLOV: Yeah, you know, Brad, CPS's Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade says it's something they are still working on, in part because of the number of teachers that decided to take a leave of absence instead of returning to the classroom for now. It's just one thing we discussed when we sat down to talk about the first week back a few hours ago.
DANA KOZLOV: There are four students total in this classroom at Miles Davis Magnet School in Englewood. It's in person day one for them, because they're part of hybrid group B, who physically come to school on Thursdays and Fridays.
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DANA KOZLOV: They're masked and socially distanced. Other school safety measures and reminders like shields around student desks, air purifiers, and floor markers are in plain view.
LATANYA MCDADE: So far, it's been pretty good. I've been checking in to see how it's going, and I think the main thing would be what you called out, where there are some schools that might have some staffing challenges.
DANA KOZLOV: According to CPS data, 3,840 CPS cluster, pre-K, and grade school teachers have been granted accommodations to stay remote, and another 425 teachers have taken unpaid leave of absences. That's about a fourth of all CPS cluster, pre-K, and K through five teachers.
LATANYA MCDADE: There are some schools that do need staffing support, and that's where you'll see we diverted resources such as substitutes to cover, as well as central office staff deployed. Going into next week, we're monitoring that.
DANA KOZLOV: Also on the horizon, continued talks with the Chicago Teachers' Union about reopening high schools, and McDade says that is likely not a one size fits all.
LATANYA MCDADE: What does a hybrid model look like in high school? What does it look like to have a phased approach in terms of who we bring back when? All of those things are topics of discussion. I think the most important thing with the high school piece that we want to make sure that we do is hear from parents, hear from students.
DANA KOZLOV: And a second meeting with CTU to discuss high school reopening is scheduled for next week. LaTanya McDade also says so far CPS has hired about 1,200 part time support staff and substitutes to help out with that staffing shortage, but the goal is 2,000. Brad?
BRAD EDWARDS: Yeah, Dana, so four children in a classroom. I mean, something we've really probably never seen before in CPS. Right now that, of course, happening. Is that typical, a typical picture of what's happening right now, and double ended question, what about overall student attendance in class this week? What's that looking like?
DANA KOZLOV: Well, I think-- I think that it depends on the school. At Myles Davis Magnet Elementary School, where we were, I was told only 48 of the school's total 180 students have opted to return to in-person learning for this quarter. So at that school, about four in a classroom is very typical, but overall, the district wide attendance numbers, McDade says she won't have those until next week, and that could be very, very telling, Brad.
BRAD EDWARDS: Yeah, probably highly school to school, though. So thank you, CBS2 Investigator Dana Kozlov. We appreciate it.