Only A Fraction Of CPS Students Are Returning For In-Person Class

WBEZ
Chicago Public Schools first graders during their first week back for in-person learning at Miles Davis Magnet School on March 4, 2021. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
WBEZ
Chicago Public Schools first graders during their first week back for in-person learning at Miles Davis Magnet School on March 4, 2021. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

Only A Fraction Of CPS Students Are Returning For In-Person Class

Chicago Public Schools’ big foray into in-person learning has drawn even less students than the small number expected.

About 49,281 students have attended in person at least once between Feb. 11 and March 12, according to CPS data released Friday. That is significantly less than the 60,781 that the school district was expecting — and only 24% of the 205,383 who could have opted for in-person learning.

On any given day, 21% of those expected in person are instead choosing to log in from home. In-person attendance is lowest among Black students and highest among white students, who also are over-represented among those who opted into in-person learning.

But school district officials note that the numbers of students showing up at schools has increased over time, with the average in-person attendance rate now at 73%. They say this is “encouraging.”

For example, in-person attendance for elementary students grew from 66% to 75% between March 1 and March 12. This represents the percentage of students who said they would return in-person who actually came, rather than logging in from home.

Since January, Chicago Public Schools has been phasing in hybrid learning, in which students can attend classes in-person some days and are remote the rest. Preschoolers and some special education students came back first, and elementary students were allowed to return starting March 1.

This attendance information is being released on the day parents must tell CPS whether they will bring their children into classrooms on April 19 — the next and last time opportunity to begin in-person. For the first time, high school students are being given this option, though the school district is still negotiating with the Chicago Teachers Union over the terms of reopening.

School district officials have said that they expect a “surge” of students to start in-person on April 19, which is the start of the fourth quarter. “Schools offer children a stable learning environment,” said CPS CEO Janice Jackson in a press release.

One reason why students might be staying at home is that, even in school, most of them are on a laptop being taught as though they are still remote. In the majority of cases, the teachers is in the room with them.

But under hybrid, teachers are responsible for instructing students remotely and those in person at the same time. Many teachers have less than a handful of students in their classes with the majority of their students still at home. Also, thousands of teachers have accommodations to work from home, which means their in-person students are in a classroom watching the teacher, who is remote.

Many of the teachers only have guaranteed accommodations until the end of the third quarter, which is April 16. And with many of them vaccinated, it is expected that more will be required to come into school to teach.

Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. Follow her on Twitter @WBEZeducation and @sskedreporter.