Expect masks, temperature checks: Chicago schools chief offers new details about fall

Chicago is “committed” to its start date of Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, schools chief Janice Jackson said.  (Stacey Rupolo/Chalkbeat)

Students and teachers will be required to wear masks, and schools must conduct temperature checks daily if Chicago students return to campuses in the fall. 

In a letter to educators and parents Friday evening, Chicago schools chief Janice Jackson offered a first glimpse at what school could look like in fall and said the district was preparing for the possibility of reopening classrooms. But it’s still unknown whether students will attend school every day or in shifts, or how much remote learning will continue to be a reality.

She said the district was still working out multiple scenarios for returning to in-person schooling.

One thing sounded certain: While some districts have considered going back to school earlier in case the coronavirus surges in late fall, Chicago remains “committed” to its start date of Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, she wrote. 

“However, what that looks like and how many students will be able to return at a time is also dependent on the phasing of Illinois’ reopening,” Jackson wrote. 

Chicago will continue with its plan to offer summer school virtually, she said, despite the state school board’s decision to reverse its position and allow districts to let small groups gather in classrooms this summer. 

“While we are developing plans for a potential return to in-person instruction in the fall,” she wrote, “it would be premature for us to bring students and staff back at this time due to the ongoing challenges associated with in-person instruction.”

According to Chalkbeat sources, Illinois’ state school board is expected to release guidance in the next week or so.

Jackson said the district plans to survey parents, students, and educators about reopening. She said more details are forthcoming.  

Illinois just reopened its early learning centers with lower class sizes and building capacity limits. The state has recommended that children ages 3 and over wear masks in and out of buildings and on playgrounds. Many providers have said that requiring young children to wear masks is proving difficult.

“Everyone will need to wear face coverings,” Jackson wrote. The district will provide “a limited set” to students and staff members at the start of the school year.

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