By Meredith Barack

CHICAGO (CBS) — Monday brought a controversial return to the classroom for some Chicago Public Schools students. It was the first day of in-person learning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Things looked very different from the last time the classrooms were filled with students. Only pre-kindergarten and special education students were in attendance Monday.

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They donned masks, used hand sanitizer and made sure they kept their distance from their fellow students. It is a new reality that CPS President Dr. Janice Jackson said is necessary for many Chicago families.

“We know that remote learning is not an option for all of our students,” she said.

That includes Martha Casdaneda and her daughter Crystal, who spoke with CBS 2’s Meredith Barack as the day wrapped up at Dawes Elementary School in the Ashburn neighborhood.

“I think for me it’s better because she gets more motivated,” Casdaneda said. “At home she was getting tired from the computer all the time.”

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Casdaneda said she was not worried about her daughter adapting to the changes in her pre-k classroom.

“She likes the masks,” she said. “She never takes it off. She never complains. They follow the rules because I teach them.”

However, it was a different story in Pilsen. No students and just one teacher showed up for in-person learning at Whittier Elementary School, as many believe schools should remain closed.

“Kids and parents should not be a science experiment,” said activist Javier Ruiz. “It doesn’t make sense that there’s another stay at home order yet CPS is demanding schools reopen.”

During a press conference Monday morning, Jackson said 77,000 CPS students have chosen in-person learning. CPS expected 6,000 students to return to the classroom Monday. Just how many students returned to the classroom should be released later in the week.

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Meredith Barack