CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s back to school time for kids all across Chicago, as Tuesday marks the first day of classes for Chicago Public Schools and several charter schools – though not in the way any of us are used to.

CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas on showed us ahead of the logon that will in many cases replace the morning bell how schools are preparing.

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It will be a school year and especially a first quarter unlike any other before. Teachers at Edgar Allan Poe Elementary Classical School, 10358 S. Langley Ave., would typically be setting up their classrooms right as they were preparing to welcome students back.

And in a way, they are. But of course, this year, the classroom is at home.

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Philicia Wheatley’s classroom at Poe has been her home away from home for four years. But she has now picked up the tools she needs to teach first grade from her real home.

“Used to changing our things, everything; getting the kids excited about being back, so just definitely bittersweet not being in the classroom,” Wheatley said.

Poe principal Eric Dockery invited the teachers back last week to get their stuff.

”This is not a challenge,” Dockery said. “This is an opportunity.”

He said to make this quarter a success, parents, teachers, and kids will all have to work together – and the leniency of last spring is gone.

“Attendance is taken every day. You will be graded just like you are in school,” Dockery said. “Teachers will give you assignments – not watered-down assignments, and you are expected to work hard.”

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Dockery is hoping to show off the school’s new gym and lunchroom to students in quarter two, if CPS can safely move to a hybrid model by then.

North Lawndale College Prep, 1615 S. Christiana Ave., is already launching their hybrid model Tuesday.

“We’ve cut the classroom size down significantly,” said Garland Thomas-McDavid, chief executive officer of the school. “It’s a student driven decision.”

Thomas-McDavid said all students will be assigned to small groups called cohorts, and they will move from class to class together. If someone gets sick, she said, their cohort may be moved temporarily to e-learning only.

“With everything going on, I thought to myself, maybe I should have just went to medical school or something for the amount of time I spent on the CDC’s website just reading everything and making sure we’re covering everything,” Thomas-McDavid said.

Back at Poe, parents also came in last week to pick up Chromebooks, textbooks, and wipe boards. Monique Isaiah’s son is starting first grade.

“He’s never been inside this building. He’s more excited about making friends,” she said, “and it’s going to be obviously more difficult to do.”

If CPS does move to hybrid in quarter two, it would mean three days of remote learning and two in person. At North Lawndale, students who choose the hybrid model do two days in person and two days online, and everyone has Fridays off.


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Tim McNicholas