WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: When Will Students Return To High Schools?

Lightfoot school reopening
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot visits Hawthorne Scholastic Academy as elementary students return to classrooms on Monday, March 1, 2021. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ
Lightfoot school reopening
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot visits Hawthorne Scholastic Academy as elementary students return to classrooms on Monday, March 1, 2021. Manuel Martinez / WBEZ

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: When Will Students Return To High Schools?

Good afternoon! It’s Monday. Hope y’all had a nice weekend. I hurt my back picking up a candy bar because I’m 38 going on 88. Here’s what you need to know today.

(By the way, if you’d like this emailed to your inbox, you can sign up here.)

1. Grade school students return to Chicago classrooms. Will high schoolers follow?

More than 37,000 kindergarten through fifth grade students were estimated to return to Chicago’s public schools today, and an additional 18,500 students in sixth through eighth grade are expected to return a week from today.

But as Chicago Public Schools moves forward with its reopening plan, some principals are worried they don’t have enough staff members.

“It’s not gonna work — we’ve got a foundation of toothpicks, and on top of that is built a house of cards, like it’s all just going to come apart here,” one principal told WBEZ’s Sarah Karp. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, there’s still no plans for bringing back high school students. CPS CEO Janice Jackson recently said she hopes it will happen before the school year ends in late June, but the size of high schools — and the fact that students change classrooms multiple times during the day — pose significant challenges. [WBEZ]

The school reopenings come as scientists are making progress in understanding how COVID-19 affects children.

In a nationwide study published last week, scientists found that children between the ages of 6 and 12 were most likely to develop an inflammatory syndrome that doctors first noticed in some children diagnosed with COVID-19 early in the pandemic. [New York Times]

2. Now is not the time to lift restrictions, CDC director warns states

CDC director Rochelle Walensky today said she is “really worried” about states lifting more coronavirus restrictions as the nationwide decline in cases “appears to be stalling.”

At a White House briefing, Walensky said the significant decline in cases has plateaued around a daily average of 70,000.

“Seventy thousand cases a day seems good compared to where we were just a few months ago,” she said. “Please hear me clearly: At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard-earned ground we have gained.” [CNBC]

The nation is also testing fewer people. The New York Times reports that testing has fallen by 30% in recent weeks, and experts say it could be due to bad weather, the vaccine distribution and pandemic fatigue. [NYT]

According to a case tracker from the Times, Cook County remains at a “very high risk” for infections. [NYT]

Meanwhile, the number of vaccine doses shipped to Chicago and Illinois will increase by about 50% now that Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine has received federal emergency authorization. [WBEZ]

3. Senate expected to vote on Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief plan this week

Senators could vote as early as Wednesday on President Joe Biden’s stimulus plan, and it currently appears unlikely that a $15-an-hour federal minimum wage increase will be included in the Senate’s bill.

Sen. Bernie Sanders and senior Democrats were considering ways to salvage the minimum wage increase in a way that wouldn’t violate the complex and strict rules of budget reconciliation, the fast-tracked process Democrats are using to avoid a Senate filibuster.

But NPR reports it’s unclear if Democrats can find a way to attach the wage hike to the stimulus package before enhanced jobless benefits for millions of Americans expire on March 14. [NPR]

Meanwhile, more than 7 in 10 Americans support Biden’s relief plan, according to a poll from The New York Times and SurveyMonkey. [SurveyMonkey]

4. What we know so far about the sexual harassment claims against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

A second former aide to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has publicly come forward with sexual harassment allegations just four days after another former aide made similar claims.

Charlotte Bennett, a 25-year-old former aide to Cuomo, told The New York Times that the governor asked her about her sex life and whether age made a difference in romantic relationships. Bennett’s allegations came to light just days after Lindsey Boylan, another former aide, wrote online that Cuomo “kissed me on the lips.”

Cuomo yesterday issued a statement, saying in part: “I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that.”

The governor has asked New York’s attorney general and the state’s chief judge to appoint an independent investigator to look into the allegations. [NPR]

5. It could be a sunny week in the Chicago area

Hello, sunshine, my old friend.

Today is the first day of meteorological spring, and the weather forecast this week almost makes last month’s heavy snowstorms seem like a different reality. The Chicago area is expected to see sunny weather for the rest of the week, with high temperatures in the upper 30s and low 40s, reports Block Club Chicago.

Sunday sounds like it’ll be a bonanza, with a high near 50 degrees. [Block Club Chicago]

Here’s what else is happening

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., introduced a bill today to create a wealth tax for people worth more than $50 million. [Axios]
  • Chicago Ald. Michelle Harris and U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly are facing off to become the first woman and first person of color to lead the Democratic Party of Illinois. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Protests have erupted in Myanmar’s biggest city against the military’s overthrow of the government. [AP]
  • Nicolas Sarkozy is the first former French president to do time. [BBC]

Oh, and one more thing …

Researchers at the Pompeii archaeological site in Italy have unearthed an intact ceremonial chariot that is being called the “Lamborghini” of chariots.

The chariot includes “four iron wheels, metal armrests and backrests, and a seat perched atop that could sit one or two people,” reports NPR. “Notably, the chariot is adorned with metal medallions depicting satyrs, nymphs and cupids, suggesting the possibility that it may have been used in marriage ceremonies.”

Eric Poehler, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who has studied traffic in ancient Pompeii, told NPR that the discovery blew him away.

“Many of the vehicles I’d written about before … are your standard station wagon or vehicle for taking the kids to soccer,” he said. “This is a Lamborghini. This is an outright fancy, fancy car.” [NPR]

Tell me something good …

March is Women’s History Month, and I’d like to know who is among the women you look up to and why.

Here’s my running list: My mom, my sister, Laura Dern, Toni Morrison, Catwoman, Sarah Connor, Joan of Arc, Billie Jean King, Ursula K. Le Guin, Lisa Simpson and Carrie Fisher, among many others, because they don’t take anyone’s … oh hey, I’ve got to wrap this up.

Feel free to email me at therundown@wbez.org or tweet me at @whuntah.

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