By Marie Saavedra

CHICAGO (CBS) — In just a matter of hours, thousands of the youngest CPS students will head back to their classrooms.

The first group to return to in-person learning following a weeks-long stand off between the teachers union and CPS.

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CBS 2’s Marie Saavedra reports it’s been a rollercoaster ride for parents and their kids.

Parents said they understood teachers’ push for safety in the negotiations. Still, they are concerned that their pre-K and students with special needs, who will be back to class Thursday, have been and could continue to be collateral damage.

“A lot of tears, a lot of frustration, a lot of just wanting what’s best for my son and all children.”

After weeks of emotion, watching the fate of her son Elliott’s schooling be decided, Brittney Hantak has  been through it.

“Relieved. Extremely Relieved that he’s going back,” Hantak said.

The Norwood Park pre-kindergartner will be in class Thursday after disheartening weeks at home as CTU and CPS fought to make a deal.

“We saw so much progress in two weeks when he was back in person,” Hantak said. “And then so much regression again when he was back home.”

So her feeling now is gratitude, for the attention he’ll get that a computer screen can’t give.

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“I know it’s so important for him to be there, because the services that he needs cannot be offered remotely,” Hantak said.

That feeling is shared by many CPS Parents of pre-K and cluster students who will be inside their classrooms starting Thursday. Kindergarten through fifth grade teachers return the 22nd, with students starting in person March 1st.

That’s the same day, middle school teachers and staff come back, with sixth through eighth students in their seats one week later, March 8. But this return isn’t without concerns.

“I suspect my daughter’s education quality will continue to decline.”

Natalie Sawyer’s family has health challenges, keeping them in a tight bubble. So her four-year-old Isla will still attend pre-K at home. She fears even the teachers trying their best will struggle to share attention.

“They’re focusing, rightfully so, on the students right in front of them in class,” Sawyer said. “But it means there’s almost no engagement for remote learners.”

So Sawyer’s emotion is nervous, that her daughter’s school year is a lose-lose situation. She hope’s she’s wrong.

 

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Consistency is key for so many of these families. While many are glad to have a more routine school week back, they are still emotionally preparing for the chance that should COVID cases strike their school, they could at some point be back to remote.

Marie Saavedra