On First Day Of School In Chicago, Mayor Lightfoot Confident CPS Tech Bumps Will Be Smoothed Out

Chicago News

CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s the first day of school for students at Chicago Public Schools, but the classroom today isn’t at school, as the year starts with remote learning.

CBS 2’s Mugo Odigwe explains why Tuesday is bound to be somewhat challenging for CPS students, parents and teachers.

When you think about the first day of school, there’s usually that excitement of meeting your teachers and making new friends.

It’s a new world of remote learning and unlike last spring, the district is using a new reopening website to mark attendance this year. Meaning attendance is mandatory.

So parents will have to take on more responsibilities, helping their children navigate remote learning. It’s double work for parents like Joddecci Lozada who’s taking college classes.

“I’ll probably get distracted drifting off and trying to not pay attention,” Lozada said. “So then I’ll have to stop what I’m doing to get him focused again.”

For parents who need a place to drop off their kids while they are at work, CPS has six supervision sites and more will be added in the coming weeks. The district said a staff member at each site will supervise classrooms of no more than 15 kids as they e-learn, socially distanced and masked.

One parent dropping off her kids at Schubert Elementary said it’s not as simple as it sounds.

“A little nervous. They said they’re not really certified. They are no there to teach them, they are just really there to kind of supervise,” Michelle Carrillo said.

Then there are the teachers.

“I know we’re going to bring our game,” said CPS drama teacher Lauren Kullman. “Our students bring it back. I’ve got four monitors around me. I feel like I’m producing the Emmys.”

Some Chicago Teachers Union members gathered Tuesday morning to discuss their new normal; teaching in the age of COVID-19.

“My biggest fears are the technology,” said CPS chemistry teacher Nina Hike.

Special education teachers took the time to comfort parents about the uncertainty of things right now.

“I know we have more questions that answers, but support you,” said CPS special education teacher Paula Barajaras.

Teachers and parents said Tuesday is the day they’ll finally learn if devices work or if there are tech issues that make learning difficult. They said they’ll be paying close attention to when the district decides to move to hybrid learning.

On Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS CEO Janice Jackson commented the day was going well and that the important thing was for everyone to show up and get started.

“The goal is to make sure that this is a successful year despite some of the challenges that we face in remote learning,” Jackson said, adding that she herself wasn’t sure how the excitement of the first day of school was going to play out. “We saw today that our teachers have still captured that moment. There’s a lot of excitement and I have no doubt that this is going to be a fantastic year. ”

Mayor Lightfoot said it will take a group effort to make sure the school year is successful despite remote learning issues, specifically with connectivity.

“The points that we need to emphasize to the parents and the guardians and the adults in our young people’s lives: Make sure that we are not leaving anybody behind. We want to make sure that every single student in CPS has the same opportunity to have a fulfilling and nurturing learning experience as they would if they were physically in the classroom.”

The mayor added that problems won’t arise and be solved in a day, but it takes a commitment by everyone to make sure students get what they need through e-learning.

“It’s not one day. It’s day by day by day. That consistent effort to get the word out to schools in session. Learning is happening at CPS,” she said.

Jackson said students will not be marked absent if they have problems logging in or are not able to connect to the internet.

“We’re working directly with our families, working through those technical issues. Our plan has been about flexibility,” Jackson said. “We anticipated some of these things happening. But people are working extremely hard to get our kids connected, and we’re going to make every effort to ensure that they’re not only counted in attendance, but that they have access to their teachers so they can learn.”

On teaching efforts, Lightfoot addressed President Donald Trump’s threat to pull funding from school districts that incorporate the 1619 Project into their curriculum. It’s the New York Times’ Pulitzer Prize winning collection of essays published in the New York Times magazine earlier this year. It marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in the colony of Virginia.

“It’s just it’s just more hot air. We’re a democracy. And in a democracy, we do not hide our race, our history. The 1619 Project was one that Dr. Jackson and CPS embraced. We think it’s critically important that our young people of all races and ethnicities and backgrounds understand this important part of American history,” Lightfoot said. “And know the President has no power to try to take funding from any school district, and if he does, obviously, we will see him in court.”

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