Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: April 25 – May 1, 2020

Oprah Winfrey will give commencement address at Chicago Public Schools’ citywide virtual graduation ceremony

By Hannah Leone for the Chicago Tribune

“None other than Oprah Winfrey has been named as the headliner at Chicago Public Schools’ virtual commencement ceremony for high school seniors, Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Thursday afternoon. “The times we are living in are historic and stunning, forcing us all to take a deep look at who we are as a people and our place in the world,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “No one knows this better than Oprah, and I join all of Chicago in looking forward to hearing the wisdom she’ll be sharing with our incredible young people as they take this unforgettable next step on their life’s journey.” The ceremony will take place in mid-June and also will include other speeches and performances to celebrate the experiences of all of Chicago’s high school seniors, whether they attend district, charter or private schools, according to the mayor’s office. “The COVID-19 pandemic has touched every Chicagoan over the last few months, from lives lost to livelihoods severely impacted to planned experiences that had to be cancelled and that cannot be replaced,” Lightfoot said. But, added CPS CEO Janice Jackson, the meaning of graduation “is more profound than a physical stage.”


Schools Out: Dancing, Jumping and Building Remotely

By Adriana Cardona-Maguigad, Susie An for WBEZ

“With in-person classes canceled, Chicago area teachers are getting creative in finding ways to teach a range of subjects online, including gym, dance and even architecture. In today’s Schools Out segment, we hear gym and dance teachers at the Loomis-Longwood campus of the Chicago International Charter School and an architecture teacher at suburban New Trier High School.”


Front-line Chicago school administrators say they still lack protective equipment, as national supply grab continues

By Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat

“Administrators handing out meals and tech devices to families at Chicago schools say they still lack sufficient protective gear, even as many meet the public daily. That’s according to responses from 350 principals and assistant principals to a survey conducted April 10-13 by the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, nearly four weeks into meal distribution. Schools became Chicago’s meal distribution centers after Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker closed school buildings statewide as part of a stay-at-home order. The group asked whether principals had access to masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer, as well as physical tools like signs and spacing markers to enforce recommendations on social distancing. More than 90% of administrators responded that they hadn’t received gloves or masks from Chicago Public Schools in early April. In addition, 78% of principals and assistant principals said the district hadn’t provided them hand sanitizer. The complaints echo front-line workers throughout the country who have warned about insufficient supplies of protective equipment. Pritzker is among the governors who have criticized the federal government for failing to help states procure the supplies they need, putting state governments in the position of bidding against each other.”


Despite coronavirus uncertainty, Chicago school leaders move forward with $125 million budget boost

By Mila Koumpilova and Yana Kunichoff  for Chalkbeat

“The district, which offered a first draft of school-level budgets for the 2020-21 year on Tuesday, expects to present a balanced full-district budget this summer, thanks in part to about $205 million in federal emergency funding to help it face strain from the coronavirus pandemic and resulting school building closures. Chicago Public Schools must share some of that funding with private and charter schools, according to the federal government. The spending plan presented Tuesday for individual campuses represents about 60% of the anticipated total district budget. Still, schools chief Janice Jackson stressed the district cannot rule out the need to adjust its plan, as the longer-term effects of the coronavirus outbreak on state and district budgets become clearer.”


Coronavirus school shutdown has been particularly tough on kids with special needs: ‘It’s not just a disruption. We’re going to see kids who actually go backward.’

By Hannah Leone and Karen Ann Cullotta for The Chicago Tribune

“When their fevers finally broke, Christine Palmieri and her sixth grade son Miles had a whole new world to navigate — one without speech therapy or recess buddies, with more screen time and less human interaction. Miles, who is autistic, normally receives special education services at school, but those have been severely cut back since Illinois schools closed due to the coronavirus and he and his mother experienced symptoms of COVID-19. The 11-year-old Chicago boy had milder, flu-like symptoms and a 100-degree fever for nearly two weeks. The illness was harder on his mom. It got so difficult for her to breathe that once she fainted in the kitchen of their Lakeview condo. “We really were just focused on surviving and staying healthy,” she said. Though they’re feeling better, Miles and his mother are now looking ahead at the weeks or months it may take before he can return to the routines and services he gets at school. “Being an autistic kiddo can be very isolating, and he will withdraw into his own world a bit,” she said, “so I need to have as many opportunities to keep him engaged as possible.” The shutdown of schools across Illinois — now extended for the rest of the academic year — has created particular hardships for families of students with disabilities. Some students are paired with full-time aides at school or get speech or physical therapy, roles that aren’t easily filled by parents who are also figuring out remote learning, working from home or dealing with their own economic challenges.”