July 17, 2020 / 4:33 PM / 25 days ago

UPDATE 2-Chicago schools plan to combine in-person and virtual learning in fall -mayor

(Adds details on plan, reaction from Teachers Union)

July 17 (Reuters) - Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said on Friday that her city’s public school district, the third-largest in the United States, was planning to host some classes remotely and some in-person this fall, with strict measures in place to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19.

The mayor said the reopening plan was not finalized and encouraged parents to give their feedback ahead of students’ return to school.

“This is a dialogue that will require all of us to confront a challenge that no one has faced before,” Lightfoot said.

The reopening framework outlines requirements for mask-wearing and daily health screenings, including temperature checks. It suggests that most 11th and 12th graders will learn remotely, most Pre-K students will learn at school, and students in grade levels in between will follow a hybrid model.

Chicago’s announcement came as educators and politicians across the United States engage in an intense debate about whether it would be safe to send children and teachers back into the classroom while the country’s COVID-19 case count continues to soar.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said his city’s public school district, which is the country’s largest, would also open with a “blended” in-person, remote learning model in the fall. In Los Angeles, home to the country’s second-largest school district, the mayor announced last week that all classes would be online in the fall.

On Wednesday, the Chicago Teachers Union called for classes to be remote, citing the risks of COVID-19 spreading in classrooms. The union objected to the Chicago school district’s reopening plan in a Twitter post on Friday.

“They’re asking a school district that is more than 80 percent Black and Latinx - communities that have suffered the most harm RE: COVID-19 - to return to school communities that cannot guarantee safety,” the Union tweeted.

Under the proposed framework, Chicago students would move around in pods of 15 at school to limit their exposure to others. Each pod would learn in-person two days a week and virtually the other three days.

The plan said the school district was hiring 400 additional custodians “to support stringent cleaning and disinfection protocols.”

“We hope that today is another step forward, that will allow us to work in collaboration with our families and communities so we can put together the best possible plan to ensure the health and safety of our students, and also prioritize learning,” Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Janice Jackson said on Friday.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler

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