road guidance

While Reopening Negotiations Continue, CPS Principals Offer a “Third Way”

It’s Wednesday morning. The Chicago Board of Education is meeting and the Chicago Teachers Union continues to negotiate with Chicago Public Schools leadership over the district’s reopening plan.

Latest update from CTU, as of 9:16 a.m.:

While the union and the district haggle over the fine details of reopening, the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association has released a three-step reopening plan that could address the deeper concerns of teachers, parents and communities.

The plan specifically addresses the implementation challenges that have left students and parents skeptical that their safety is being adequately addressed. Principals, who have been in buildings since last spring and who are tasked with ensuring the safe and effective rollout of reopening, are both best positioned to understand both the safety and educational considerations at the heart of the debate, and the personnel with the most insight into the effectiveness of the current district plan.

“We salute the district’s goals,” said Troy LaRaviere, president of the principals’ association, in a press release. “However, their plans are not realistic or safe for most of our schools. Accordingly, we developed a more grounded and practical approach to resuming in-person learning.”

Start with a ‘Coalition of the Willing’

The principal association’s plan proposes an initial pilot phase to launch February 15, with a small “representative” group of schools where administrators and staff “feel they have what they need for a safe return.” The association recommends prioritizing pilot staff for vaccinations.

The pilot schools would also receive five-day-a-week health and counseling staff and “personnel to conduct intensive outreach to families to build trust and buy-in.” The success of the pilot would be evaluated after four weeks, and would be measured against the “essential needs” identified by principals in a recent survey, including adequate staffing.

Assuming the pilot phase succeeds, schools could proceed with a gradual reopening schedule, with all 418 district-operated schools open by April 25.

While it may be that the district and the union reach a different kind of deal, I personally wish a proposal like this had been on the table back in August. Had it been, I might still be a CPS parent today. But without it, we had to leave.

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Maureen Kelleher

Chicago Unheard blog manager Maureen Kelleher also serves as a senior writer and editor at brightbeam, a nonprofit network of education activists demanding a better education and brighter future for every child. Before joining the brightbeam team, she spent a decade as a reporter, blogger and policy analyst. Her work has been published across the education world, from Education Week to the Center for American Progress. A former high school English teacher, she is also the proud mom of a middle-schooler. Find her on Twitter at @KelleherMaureen.

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