CHICAGO (CBS) — Touting a record high graduation rate for Chicago Public Schools students in 2020, despite ending the school year learning remotely, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson on Friday vowed to make sure the new school year “feels as normal as any other school experience” even as students continue taking classes from home.

Jackson said this past year’s overall graduation rate was 82.5%, up from 78.9% for the 2018-19 school year, which also was a record at the time.

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“The most exciting aspect of today’s news is the faces behind these numbers. Data shows that students of color, led by our Latinx students, are driving this year’s progress,” Jackson said.

African American students increased graduation rates by 4 percentage points since 2017, the largest increase of all groups in CPS, according to Jackson.

Lightfoot said the record graduation rate was especially encouraging, given that school buildings closed in mid-April due to the pandemic, forcing students to finish the school year learning at home.

“Our school communities, but especially our students were dealt a very difficult hand, and yet despite everything that happened, I’m absolutely thrilled that instead of taking a step back, our students still managed to take another huge leap forward in their journey towards achievement and success,” she said. “This is incredibly great news, especially when you consider the challenges that all of us faced over the course of this last year, particularly our students.”

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CPS also reached a record low dropout rate last year, at 5.6%, down from 6% in 2018-19.

The mayor and Jackson said promised to make sure that every student is prepared to begin the upcoming school year on Tuesday, as CPS begins the school year remotely. Lightfoot said the district already has distributed 128,800 devices to students who need them. Jackson said any student who does not yet have a laptop or other mobile device to access virtual classes can get one from CPS.

“We’re committed to making sure that learning at home feels as normal as any other school experience,” Jackson said.

If a child needs a device, Jackson said their parents or guardians should first contact should their school. CPS also has set up a parent tech support hotline at 773-417-1060 (Monday – Friday 7:30 am – 4:30 pm).

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Jackson said families should set up their child’s CPS email address before the first day of class on Tuesday. Families can do so through the CPS reopening website.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff