One of the strangest school years ever began for 300,000 Chicago Public School students Tuesday morning.
Remote school kicked off in homes across the city.
WBEZ spent the morning with the Sanchez family — they have a preschooler, a kindergartner and a fourth grader — at their home in the West Lawn neighborhood on the Southwest Side. All three children attend Orozco Community Academy. Their mother Maria was in charge.
Stephanie, the fourth grader, was full of wisdom: “I’ve been asking my friends if they get scared … and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I’m so scared.’”
What does she tell them? “It’s okay, don’t be nervous because it’s just like a regular day of school.”
The day for the three Sanchez kids and their mother Maria began around 7:20 a.m. with teeth and hair brushing and plenty of running around before an 8 a.m. school start time.
Breakfast for the Sanchez kids — Stephanie, 9, Jessica, 5, and Raphael, 4 — is Nutella toast and smoothies.
Among the remote school rules posted by Mom and Dad: “Eat unless you want to be starving.”
Maria oversees Jessica’s “morning meditation” class. The kindergarteners are instructed to mute themselves and turn off their cameras until they’re called on by the teacher. “I didn’t know what to expect at the beginning,” Maria said. “But now I expect myself to be good for my kids and to be as positive as I can.”
Raphael logged on for school in his bedroom with mom Maria standing by. Maria said she learned lessons from remote learning last spring that she’s trying out now. “I have to be energized and I have to be positive … things that I probably didn’t think I could do, things that I thought that the teachers would handle for me. I just have become ‘that parent.’”
Stephanie, the fourth grader, said remote school isn’t like regular school at all, and she really misses her friends. Still, she said she’s looking forward to a good year. “I know this is hard for everyone and nobody really knows because this came out of nowhere,” she said. “But I’m excited to learn new things.”
Maria is concerned her kids could be hurt by not being able to socialize in person with classmates and teachers. The “teachers don’t have that connection with their students and I think they’re really gonna be missing out.” She also worries they could misunderstand concepts and could get antsy and lose focus, especially after sitting in front of a screen for hours.
Despite the challenges, Maria said remote learning allows her to see her kids progress and learn in a way she wasn’t able to before. “We should cherish this opportunity,” she said. “We’re gonna have some struggles, but I think if the kids can be more independent at the end of this, that’s a big gain.”