Chicago public schools will start the school year all virtual

Children, some wearing face masks as a preventive measure, pick up free lunch at Kenmore Middle School in Arlington, Virginia on March 16, 2020, after schools in the area closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. By Annie Grayer, CNN

(CNN) -- Chicago Public Schools, the nation's third-largest school system, will start the coming school year with fully remote learning for all students due to the coronavirus pandemic, the district announced Wednesday.

The decision could avoid a possible strike from the Chicago Teachers Union. The district will implement remote learning through the first quarter, which ends November 9, and then will evaluate if it is safe to open in a hybrid learning model.

"As a district, we value parent feedback and we cannot overlook that a large percentage of parents have indicated they do not feel comfortable sending their students to school under a hybrid model for the start of the school year," said CPS CEO Janice K. Jackson in a statement.

"I understand the uncertainty this pandemic has caused our parents, especially communities of color who have been disproportionately impacted. We are making every possible effort to provide a high-quality remote learning experience in the fall, utilizing live, virtual instruction for every student, every day, and we are committed to ongoing engagement and communication with parents."

The announcement comes a day after a source close to the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) told CNN that the CTU planned to convene their House of Delegates early next week to discuss taking a strike vote to demand remote learning for Chicago Public Schools.

The decision affects more than 355,000 students and most severely hurts poor families and people of color. About 76% of students are economically disadvantaged, and among all students, 36% are African-American and 47% are Hispanic, according to Chicago Public Schools data.

Reversal of previous plan

Illinois has seen a consistent rise in daily coronavirus cases over the past two months. The state's seven-day average of new daily cases topped 1,500 this week as Covid-19 has spread widely throughout the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Chicago had previously hoped to start the school year with a hybrid learning model, and had prepared a scenario to do so, but ultimately decided against doing so.

"The decision to begin the 2020-2021 CPS school year remotely during the first quarter is rooted in public health data and the invaluable feedback we've received from parents and families," said Mayor Lori Lightfoot.

"As we build out this remote learning model and seek to establish a hybrid learning model in the second quarter, we will continue to support and collaborate with parents and school leaders to create safe, sustainable learning environments for our students," Lightfoot said.

New York City public schools, the country's largest school system, plans to hold in-person classes in the fall, while the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest system, will begin with virtual classes.

Already, there have been outbreaks among students and those caring for them around the country. On the first day of school in Canton, Georgia, for example, a second grader tested positive, sending the teacher and 20 other classmates into a two-week quarantine, the Cherokee County School District told CNN.

Nationally, about one in four teachers are at higher risk of serious illness if they contract coronavirus, according to an analysis released last month.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

Share this article: