Chicago moves to officially start school year earlier

Ogden International School of Chicago
A mural at Ogden International School of Chicago. (Stacey Rupolo/Chalkbeat)

After soliciting feedback from families and receiving thousands of comments, Chicago plans to eschew its traditional post-Labor Day school start and instead bring back students Aug. 31 in an effort to address concerns over school disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The Board of Education will vote Wednesday on the proposal. Under the new start date, teachers would return to school Aug. 18. 

The announcement comes as the district has extended the date for families to opt in to in-person learning for the fourth quarter, which begins April 19, as part of its staggered reopening plan. Families now have until midnight Tuesday to tell the district if they want to return to school buildings. 

For the first time in over a year, high school families also have that option. The district has set a target high school reopening date of Apr. 19, pending the outcome of negotiations with the teachers union. 

Elementary and middle school students returned to school buildings in February and March, respectively. About 1 in 4 of the elementary, middle, prekindergarten and special education students eligible to come back to buildings did so this year. 

Earlier this month, the district’s No. 2, LaTanya McDade, said “it too soon to tell” whether Chicago Public Schools students will be able to return to classrooms full time in the fall.

Under the new calendar, the last school day of the year for students in 2022 would be June 14. The district also marked possible days that school could be extended if school days fall below the state-mandated requirement next year. 

In public comments left on the district’s portal for community feedback, opinions on the new start date ranged widely. “This is a fantastic idea to minimize learning loss and aligns with the rest of the surrounding areas,” said one person. Another argued that “families need the Labor Day weekend” ahead of the chaos of the school year. 

More than 3,000 people weighed in on the question. 

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