WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: How Many CPS Kids Will Return To Classrooms?

An empty hallway at South Loop Elementary School
An empty hallway at South Loop Elementary School. Marc Monaghan / WBEZ
An empty hallway at South Loop Elementary School
An empty hallway at South Loop Elementary School. Marc Monaghan / WBEZ

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: How Many CPS Kids Will Return To Classrooms?

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Hi! It’s Wednesday, and my husband was way too excited to use his new snow shovel. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. Only 37% of eligible CPS students are expected to return to classrooms when schools reopen

A handful of the Chicago public schools scheduled to reopen on Jan. 11 are expecting only one child to show up. Others are anticipating more than 700 students, according to district data.

Most schools that are anticipating few students are in low-income Black and Latino neighborhoods that have high rates of COVID-19 infections or deaths, reports WBEZ’s Sarah Karp. Of the 156,000 students considered low-income that were offered in-person instruction, just 32% of them say they are coming.

Some teachers and principals at the schools that are expecting few students said they’re concerned that some kids who return won’t understand what they are walking into and will have their academic year disrupted at a time they need stability.

Preschoolers and students in special education cluster programs are due back on Jan. 11, while elementary students are slated to return on Feb. 1. CPS hopes to bring some high schools back at a later date. Preschool and cluster students will attend five days a week. Elementary school students will be in-person two days a week and remote the other three.[WBEZ]

Meanwhile, an analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times found that 30 public schools in Chicago are named for slaveholders. And schools named after white people outnumber those named for African Ameiricans 4 to 1. [Chicago Sun-Times]

2. Americans are unlikely to see $2,000 payments from COVID-19 relief bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel, R-Ky., has likely blocked for good the House bill that would give many Americans $2,000 instead of $600.

President Donald Trump — and some Republicans — support the larger payments. But McConnell tied the increase to other White House priorities doomed to fail, including forming a commission to investigate the 2020 election and repealing big tech liability protections.

Two GOP senators from Georgia said yesterday that they support Trump’s plan for bigger checks. Both are in runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate. [AP]

In Illinois, officials said the state will back pay unemployment benefits that were disrupted because of Trump’s delay in signing the relief bill. [Chicago Tribune]

Meanwhile, Trump tweeted earlier today that Georgia’s Republican governor should resign after he refused to intervene in the state’s presidential election. [Washington Post]

And Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said today that he would object when Congress convenes to certify the electoral college vote next week. The move would delay cementing President-elect Joe Biden’s victory, although probably not for long. [Washington Post]

A new NPR/Ipsos poll found that one-third of Americans believe voter fraud helped Biden win the 2020 election, despite no evidence. [NPR]

3. Second case of British COVID-19 variant suspected in U.S.

Colorado health officials said today that a second National Guardsman may have contracted the more contagious UK variant of the coronavirus.

The first person in the U.S. known to be infected with the variant is a Colorado National Guardsman who was sent on Dec. 23 to help out at a nursing home struggling with an outbreak. Five other National Guardsmen, including the latest suspected case, also went to the home in rural Colorado.

State officials said they are looking for the variant among nursing home residents who have tested positive, but have yet to find it.

The lack of travel in the first case indicates the variant is probably already spreading in the U.S., most likely from visitors from Britain in November or December. Although there’s no indication of worse symptoms, this variant spreads easier, according to early research out of the U.K. [AP]

In Illinois, officials reported 178 more COVID-19 deaths and 7,374 new cases, a 38% decrease from the average two weeks ago. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, Chinese scientists raised the first alarm bells about the coronavirus a year ago today. But it took Beijing 25 days to react, reports The New York Times, allowing the virus to spread rapidly. [New York Times]

4. There’s been a spike in ethnic Chicagoans seeking dual citizenship

The global health crisis has limited the ability of Americans to travel abroad — and sparked a surge in the number of Chicagoans with Greek roots who want to become citizens of their ancestral homeland, too.

That includes WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos, who reports that the consulate general of Greece in Chicago said it has seen a 400% increase this year in Americans seeking dual citizenship. The Italy and Croatia consulates in Chicago have also seen surges in applications.

Having an EU passport allows unencumbered travel, a big advantage for Chicagoans who are nostalgic for their European ties.

“Even though we were third-generation Greeks here in Chicago, we always maintained a strong connection with Greece,” said Manoli Alpogianis, who is applying for dual citizenship and said returning to Greece is “just this great feeling of belonging and history.” [WBEZ]

5. Nashville suspect’s girlfriend told police last year he was making bombs

Police visited the home of Anthony Warner more than a year and a half before authorities said he set off a bomb on Christmas Day in downtown Nashville.

And his girlfriend told police he was building bombs in an RV trailer at his residence, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

But Warner didn’t answer the door when police went to his home. Officers reported seeing the RV in the backyard, which was fenced off so they couldn’t see inside the vehicle. A police report said there also were “several security cameras and wires attached to an alarm sign on the front door” of the home.

According to an FBI statement: “At no time was there any evidence of a crime detected and no additional action was taken.” [AP]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Argentina, the pope’s home country, passed a bill legalizing abortion. [AP]

  • Louisville police move to fire two more officers involved in the raid that killed Breonna Taylor. [Washington Post]

  • Europe and China made a landmark investment treaty, without the U.S. [NPR]

  • It’s been a year since recreational weed was legalized in Illinois. And sales are on track to top $1 billion. [Chicago Tribune]

Oh, and one more thing …

There’s been an influx in public murals and art in 2020. But who painted them?

The Chicago Sun-Times’ Murals and Mosaics series looks at public art all over the city, from a gritty viaduct that’s creating “visual healing” in Pilsen to a former Northwestern football player who discovered a new career after a kidney injury took him off the field.

“What I really love about art is being able to reach people with different backgrounds,” said former football player Dwight White II. His newest mural is along Ida B. Wells Drive in the Loop. “It connects different walks of life. It builds community.”

You can find the full series here.

Tell me something good …

There’s been a lot of bad in 2020, but I want to know: What’s one thing that’s been great?

Damon writes:

“I saw a blue heron eating fish at Vogelei Park in Hoffman Estates. It is so close to the busy highway, but I knew it had a pond. So that is where I went to eat my socially distanced dinner by moon and lamp light one warm fall day. Quiet as a mouse, I ate my Mediterranean goodies alone on a bench, and this blue heron wades over towards me and plucks up a couple fishes out of the pond 20 feet away or so. I finished up my meal and walked off leaving the nice bird alone.”

And Kate Schwartz writes:

“I fell in love at age 70 in the midst of the pandemic. Linda walked across a veranda 10 feet away from me, fully masked, the good friend of my good friend, though she and I had never met at all. That was it. A bell went off. We have been together ever since. Six months of joy and, we hope, the rest of whatever lies in front of us. Love trumps everything.”

What’s one thing that’s been good in 2020? Feel free to email or tweet me, and your responses might be shared here this week.

Thanks for reading and have a nice night! We’ll see you tomorrow.