Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: August 21 – 27, 2021

As search for new CPS CEO progresses, 2 names emerge

By Nader Issa and Fran Spielman for The Sun-Times

“The search for the next leader of Chicago Public Schools has zeroed in on four finalists from a pool of 25 applicants, and the mayor is reviewing her options, according to city officials. Behind the scenes, one candidate appears to be emerging from that pack while the interim CEO, José Torres, also remains in the running for the permanent gig, three sources with knowledge of the process told the Chicago Sun-Times on the condition they remain unnamed to share sensitive details. The latest public update on the hiring process, which came from CPS in a report published late Friday, arrives three weeks after officials had initially planned to name the successor to former schools chief Janice Jackson, with no explanation for the delay. “We are taking this decision carefully, and at this time the search for a new CEO for CPS is still underway,” mayoral spokesman César Rodriguez wrote in an emailed statement. He said the city does not have an updated timeline for announcing a new CEO.”

CPS students return to school Monday. We have answers to your questions about fall in-person learning.

By Tracy Swartz for The Chicago Tribune 

“Chicago Public Schools students are set to return to classrooms for in-person learning five days a week starting Monday. For some students, this will be the first time they set foot in a CPS building since the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Chicago in March 2020. CPS officials say their coronavirus protocols — based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Health and the Chicago Department of Health — pave the way for the resumption of full-time, face-to-face learning. But the start of school comes amid a surge in coronavirus cases city- and countrywide because of the highly transmissible delta variant. Here we address questions students and parents may have about the fall. This post will be updated as negotiations over safety plans continue this week between CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union.”

Aldermen, state lawmakers raise concerns about CPS fall reopening plans in letter to mayor

By Tracy Swartz for The Chicago Tribune

“As Chicago Public Schools students prepare to return to classrooms next week, a group of City Council and General Assembly members say they are “deeply concerned” about the district’s COVID-19 safety plans. Representatives for CPS and Lightfoot did not immediately comment Sunday. The letter, which was signed by 23 City Council and 26 General Assembly members, urges implementation of many of the proposals the Chicago Teachers Union has put forth. The union and CPS leaders have been negotiating safety protocols as the district plans to welcome students back for in-person learning five days a week starting Aug. 30. The letter comes days after CTU leaders said talks with CPS about safety issues have been slow and frustrating. Some measures have already been decided. Everyone has to wear masks inside school buildings, except when eating and drinking. CPS is also requiring employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they receive an exemption for medical or religious reasons. Other safety plans are expected to be announced this week.”


Chicago will drop daily COVID-19 screener and bring back simultaneous instruction in quarantine cases

By Cassie Walker Burke & Mila Koumpilova for Chalkbeat Chicago

“With schools set to fully reopen Monday, Chicago says it will drop the electronic COVID-19 screener it previously required families to complete daily before students stepped onto campus. Instead, it will institute what amounts to an honor system. The district is asking parents to screen their children in good faith daily using an online checklist of symptoms and fill out an “attestation” form four times a year confirming that practice, the district’s interim CEO, José Torres, said Tuesday night in a letter that introduced a new reopening guide for parents five days before school resumes. But parents no longer have to submit anything to the school electronically. The district will bring back simultaneous instruction in classrooms where some children are sent home under quarantine orders and others aren’t, Torres also said in Tuesday’s letter. The return of simultaneous instruction — in which teachers are required to do double-duty and teach some children remotely and others in the classroom — has been a lingering point of disagreement with the teachers’ union, which has called for a more robust remote option.”


Some CPS schools could start year with 2 officers despite votes to reduce police presence; decision on CPD contract delayed

By Tracy Swartz for The Chicago Tribune

“A Chicago Board of Education vote on the district’s controversial school police contract has been postponed indefinitely because the Chicago Police Department has requested a new review of the terms of the agreement, a Chicago Public Schools official said Monday. The board was slated to review the deal with the police department at Wednesday’s board meeting after the summer votes from more than 50 Chicago high schools were tallied. Local School Councils at those schools had the choice to retain the two school resource officers assigned to their respective schools, remove them or, in an option newly available this year, keep just one officer. Chou said 23 schools opted to retain one officer. The police department may “potentially add” a second officer temporarily at these schools to help ease students back into in-person learning, she said in her email. It’s unclear why this temporary addition is only for schools that voted to get rid of one officer and not for the eight schools that axed both, but will also resume in-person learning when schools reopen next week.”