DeKalb, IL — High school students at Chicago Public Schools are weighing their options to return back to school as the school district announced the possible option to return to in-person learning in the spring.
The district expected to keep older students home while elementary schools return Feb. 1, and special education programs resume in January. But these plans may change as school officials are working on a plan to bring back at least some in-class instruction for high schools.
“We will educate any student who wants an in-person option. There is no threshold that we have to meet,” CPS CEO Janice Jackson said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. “If 15% of the kids ... decide that they’re gonna return at any given school, we will educate that 15% in-person.”
Chasen Cage, a sophomore at Whitney Young Magnet High School, said he would love to go back to school as soon as possible but with health and safety precautions in place first.
“I think that as soon as CPS can figure it out and get us back there in a way that's not going to result in a lot of people who are sick or hurt, then I hope that we can go back,” Cage said. “I think the hardest part about being online is not being able to see my friends and not being able to be social.”
He said online classes haven’t been the same. While learning at home can be difficult, so is staring at a computer screen for the majority of the day.
If high schools were to reopen in the spring, schools with a lower population will be at the top of the list as social distancing would be easier to maintain.
Allegra Coleman, a junior at Lane Tech College Prep High School, is also looking forward to returning to the classroom because online classes just aren’t as engaging.
She looks forward to seeing her friends again, but is also worried about the possible risks that in-person learning could bring since her mother has underlying health conditions.
“If I do end up going back to school, I’m just scared about bringing the virus back home to my mom,” Coleman said. “My mom was kind of scared when my brother started hybrid learning, so I know she would be even more scared if I decided to go back to school.”
While students have a decision on whether to return to the building, teachers don’t. Jackson said that teachers without pre-existing conditions who “don’t show up” to school buildings will be terminated.
Miranda Zanca, a senior at Lincoln Park High School, would love to spend her final year of high school in-person, but she doesn’t want to go back unless it was completely safe for everyone, including the teachers.
“I know the kind of threat that it poses to not just people who are going back to school but to other people who work there and then those kids’ families,” she said. “As much as I want everything to go back to normal, and I do want to see my friends and finish up school in a regular way, I just see it in a different way of how to keep people safe.”