CHICAGO (CBS) — 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.
But there are still hurdles to jump before middle schoolers return next week. As CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov reported Thursday, one of those hurdles is staffing.READ MORE: Families Fight To Keep Memorial Trees Offered Through Chicago Park District After Being Told Of Golf Course Plans
CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said it is something they are still working on – in part because of the number of teachers who opted to take unpaid leaves of absence instead of returning to the classroom.
It is just one matter that Kozlov discussed with McDade in an interview Thursday afternoon.
There are for students in total in one classroom at Miles Davis Magnet Academy, at 6740 S. Paulina St. in West Englewood. They are part of Hybrid Group B, who attend school in person on Thursday and Fridays.
While it varies by the school, Kozlov was told the sparse attendance at Miles Davis is pretty typical. Fewer than a third of all students at the school opted to come back in person.
The students are masked and socially distanced. Other school safety measures and reminders are in plain view – including shields around students’ desks, air purifiers, and markers reminding students and staff to stay 6 feet apart.READ MORE: Mother Who Heard Shots, Death Of Adam Toledo Shares What She Heard, Neighborhood Insight
“So far, it’s been pretty good,” McDade said. “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.”
According to CPS data, 3,840 district teachers have been granted accommodations to stay remote – and another 425 teachers have taken unpaid leaves of absence. That is more than a fourth of CPS pre-K, special education cluster, and K-5 teachers.
“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,” McDade said, “Going into next week, we’re monitoring that.”
Also on the horizon are continued talks with the Chicago Teachers Union about reopening high schools. McDade said that is not likely a one-size-fits-all proposition.
“What does the 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,” McDade said. “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.”
McDade said a second high school meeting will take place next week. She also said CPS has hired more than 1,200 part-time support staff and substitutes, though the goal is 2,000.MORE NEWS: Protesters Pack Logan Square Over Police Shooting Of Adam Toledo
As to attendance this week for students back in person for the whole CPS district, McDade said those numbers will not be available until next week.