Thousands of families decided remote learning just wasn’t working. They have opted to bring their children back to class. Don’t let them down. Make it work.
Should you need a reminder of what’s at stake with this week’s reopening of Chicago Public Schools to in-person learning, listen to Tamara Walker.
Walker is one of thousands of parents who, despite COVID-19, decided to bring their children back to school on Monday because remote learning just hasn’t been cutting it.
“They’ve been extremely prepared,” Walker told the Sun-Times about her son’s school, Suder Montessori Magnet on the Near West Side. “That being said, we’re still nervous. He has a mask and backup mask. So we’re obviously praying for the best. It’s a better solution than the at-home learning has been.”
Nervous and praying for the best likely describes every parent who brought their child back to school Monday — and every teacher who showed up, too, risking the chance of contracting a potentially deadly virus.
Make it work
That leaves just one job for CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union: Listen to public health experts, step up to the responsibilities of the careers you chose, and do everything in your power to make this reopening safe and healthy.
Enough with the finger-pointing over whether, when and how to reopen schools, as Stacy Moore, the head of Educators 4 Excellence, urged in a Sun-Times op-ed this week. You may not like each other — you may be plotting future political campaigns — but you’ve got to talk to each other if children and teachers are to have a successful return to the classroom.
Some 6,000 preschoolers and special needs students who returned to school this week are counting on adults to put aside their differences and do what’s best for their education and health. Thousands more kindergarten through eighth-grade students who have opted to return on Jan. 25 are counting on the same.
So too are thousands more families who, for now, have opted to continue with remote learning, the second-rate choice for education and social development. Some two-thirds of families have made that choice, which is understandable given the pandemic. The fear is especially — and understandably — strong among families of color whose communities have been hardest hit by COVID-19
The district has much work to do to convince these families that schools are and will be safe. CPS has a long track record of broken promises on multiple fronts — that’s simply a fact. Going the extra mile to communicate to parents on all the safety measures that will be in place, and listening when those parents and teachers raise concerns, is just the way it’s got to be.
The CTU, for its part, must resolve to be a real partner with CPS. So far, 71% of teachers and 76% of all school personnel, have returned to school buildings. The district’s threat to dock the pay of anyone who failed to return to work surely played a role in that, but we think the majority of teachers want to be back in a safe classroom. Pros want to be pros.
The union can make that happen. A good first step: Dial back the anti-CPS rhetoric. The goal is safe and healthy schools, not scoring political points.
Our students need cooperation, not conflict. If both sides take a deep breath, we can get there.
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January 12, 2021 at 05:25PM