Chicago’s Largest Charter School Network Is Planning For A Fall Of Virtual Classes

The Noble Network of Charter Schools, which serves 12,000 students, says it will make a final decision on its reopening plans in August.

Noble
The Noble Network of Charter Schools has 18 campuses, including the Noble Academy, Marc Monaghan / WBEZ
Noble
The Noble Network of Charter Schools has 18 campuses, including the Noble Academy, Marc Monaghan / WBEZ

Chicago’s Largest Charter School Network Is Planning For A Fall Of Virtual Classes

The Noble Network of Charter Schools, which serves 12,000 students, says it will make a final decision on its reopening plans in August.

Chicago’s largest charter school network serving more than 12,000 students says it’s preparing for remote learning as its primary form of instruction this fall.

“While we are eager to resume in-person instruction, we will continue to prioritize the health and safety of our students, families and staff,” David Brown, spokesman for the Noble Network of Charter Schools, said in a statement Thursday. “Our plan for reopening will allow for learning to continue seamlessly, especially if we must provide full remote learning as we did in March”

Noble’s 18 campuses aren’t unionized, but this move comes amid an ongoing push by the Chicago Teachers Union for the school district to open in the fall with remote learning only. The union wants a uniform plan for all schools, including all 125 charter school campuses in Chicago.

“I think it is very dangerous in the city to have a Wild West approach in which lots of publicly funded schools are doing lots of different things,” said CTU President Jesse Sharkey.

Noble is also pushing the first day of school back to Sept. 8. Noble schools usually start the school year several weeks before Labor Day.

Noble officials say they will consider Chicago Public Schools’ reopening framework, which is expected to be released Friday, and will follow state guidelines. They intend to consider many reopening scenarios before releasing a final plan in August, but say for now the safest approach is remote instruction.

Noble network officials say they’ll continue the online teaching framework they developed this spring after schools across the nation shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Noble is the first charter school network in the city to give a sense of what instruction could look like in the fall. Other network officials say they are waiting on CPS to release its reopening framework so they evaluate their own plans and make sure district requirements are met.

Acero Schools, a network of 15 schools with more than 7,000 students, is still evaluating three possibilities that include full-day in-person instruction where teachers rotate and students stay in the classroom, a hybrid approach that combines remote and in-person instruction and remote learning only.

The LEARN charter school network, which enrolls nearly 3,000 students across seven campuses, says it is the process of surveying family and staff before making a final decision.

Like in many district-run schools, charter school teachers want decisions to be made soon so they can prepare before school starts. Given the fluctuations in coronavirus infection rates, some want their charter operators to stick with remote instruction.

“It’s sort of all over the board with the charter operators — we have some that are going back with staff as soon as Aug. 3, some that don’t start until after Labor Day,” said Jennifer Conant, a math teacher at Northtown Academy, one of 14 charter school campuses managed by the Chicago International Charter Schools. “School isn’t closed this fall, it will be open, but it should be remote, instead of in buildings, so that we can protect everyone.”

Adriana Cardona-Maguigad covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @AdrianaCardMag.