Chicago Public Schools (CPS) will begin returning to in-person learning in January, with students in kindergarten through eighth grade returning in February, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and other city officials announced on Nov. 17.

Students in preK, as well as students enrolled in intensive and moderate cluster classrooms, will return on Jan. 11.

Students in kindergarten through eighth grade begin Feb. 1 through a hybrid model.

High school students in general-education programs will continue remote learning, and CPS officials will evaluate their in-person learning options in 2021.

CPS has utilized remote learning since the start of the school year in September in order to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Lightfoot said in a release that beginning in-person instruction in January allows families to quarantine after the holidays. She said certain students have suffered with school buildings closed.

“While remote learning has allowed many of our students to continue their studies over the past eight months, the reality is that our Black and Latinx students, our youngest students and highest-need learners have not been equitably served,” Lightfoot said. “The decision to begin in-person learning this January will restore their access to high-quality instruction and is the result of balancing our commitment to equity with our current public health situation. The health of our students, their families and our school communities remain our top priority, and we will continue to work closely with CPS and [the Chicago Department of Health] to ensure their safety as they transition back to the classroom.”

Officials said other states and countries have shown that in-person learning can be conducted safely despite the virus.

“It’s our moral imperative to do everything in our power to safely open schools beginning with our youngest and highest-needs learners, and the decision to re-open in January will ensure that Black and Latinx families — many of whom are essential workers and cannot ensure their children are fully supported through remote learning — have more equitable access to instruction this year,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “While we are eager to open our doors as soon as possible, beginning in-person learning in January is the right decision because it will minimize learning disruption from planned breaks and allow time for students and staff to limit activity prior to resuming in-person learning.”

Face coverings will be provided to all staff and students, officials said., and students and educators will be grouped into pods. Daily screenings will take place, and every classroom and front office will have an air purifier.

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