Some of you may have heard that CPS is planning to reopen schools for in-person learning on January 11th. If you’re wondering how this can happen as case numbers rise in a global pandemic, don’t worry. We have all the details, specifics, and student responses right here, so keep reading!
First, not everyone will be back in school. According to nbcchicago.com, the January 11th date is for pre-kindergarten students and certain “moderate cluster” groups to return to in-person learning, not all CPS students. February 1st is when the rest of K-8 students will return to school for classes. This means that until further notice, all high school students will remain in virtual instruction until further notice. This comes from the variance in high school schedules, which makes it difficult to maintain “pods” and limit the spread of COVID-19. This change will hopefully alleviate responsibilities for parents of younger children who may not be able to work as efficiently because of helping their children through virtual school. Despite the rising virus numbers, CPS recently said that COVID spread rates are reasonable enough to introduce learning in person for students, so hopefully this is the first of many progressions into reopening safely in 2021.
I also spoke to a couple of students who would be affected by these changes, to get an idea of how they’re feeling. Whitney Young’s Ryan Southworth,16, said, “My sister is in 5th grade and I do not feel comfortable with her going back to school. Since the kids are younger they may not fully understand the consequences of COVID and I can’t imagine putting my sister at risk.” This is definitely a common concern for households with multiple children. If one family member tests positive for COVID, the whole family will be forced to quarantine which can disrupt work schedules for parents and obviously affect the health of the entire family. “It also does not make sense why the younger kids should go back and not anyone else,” Southworth added.
Sidney Justus, 17, also from Whitney Young, shares Southworth’s confusion. “If I have to miss important parts of high school, why do younger kids get to go back before me?” The concern for many juniors is that in preparation for college admissions in 2021, virtual learning will not provide adequate grading, learning of important content and counselor accessibility. “I would be excited to get back to clubs and extracurricular activities, but I probably won’t get that chance any time soon,” said Justus.
Whatever your grade or household, these updates will be sure to affect Chicago’s youth in more ways than one. Until we are all face-to-face in school again, stay safe, mask up, and stay inside when you can.
By Leah Ollie, Senior, Whitney Young Magnet High School