Lightfoot hints strongly that in-classroom school year is over

Lightfoot hints strongly that in-classroom school year is over

Chicago Public Schools students, like these children at Roswell B. Mason Elementary School on the South Side, may not return to classrooms this academic year. | Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The final decision is up to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, but Lightfoot said Thursday: “Certainly, we’d love to be in conversation with the governor and his team about that before any announcement happens.”

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Thursday hinted strongly that the in-classroom school year is over for Chicago Public School students and their counterparts across the state, but said the final decision is up to Gov. J.B. Pritzker and she would like to be part of that discussion.

Pritzker’s original stay-at-home order was to expire April 7. He already has extended it once — until April 30 — and has hinted for days about a second extension deep into May.

Meanwhile, governors in several other states — and New York City Mayor Bill DiBlasio — have ordered their public school buildings closed for the rest of the academic year.

Against that backdrop, Lightfoot was asked about the possibility that Illinois school buildings also would remain closed.

“We have not had that conversation yet with the governor. Although we are hearing that he may make some kind of announcement later this week,” the mayor said.

“Certainly, we’d love to be in conversation with the governor and his team about that before any announcement happens.”

The mayor dropped further hints about a premature end to the CPS school year, which already has been disrupted by a teachers strike, when she was asked about possible cutbacks or delays in Chicago Park District summer camps and recreational programs.

“Well, I can’t predict yet. It’s our hope that, particularly once we come out of this, our youth are gonna need to be connected even more so than what happened during the pandemic. Particularly if school is canceled for the rest of the year,” she said.

“We don’t think retrenchment of services is the right approach. The government needs to be acting as an economic stimulus aid in whatever ways that we can. And that includes making sure that we’re providing good, productive programming for our young people across the city. I’m not gonna tell you that we’re not gonna face some challenges. There’s no doubt that we will. But, our first instinct is not gonna be to cut. Our instinct is gonna be…how do we spur the revitalization of the city.”

On the day CPS announced its remote learning plan, Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said the clear indication then was that the in-classroom school year was over. Lightfoot scoffed at the alderman’s claim and said no decision had been made.

The mayor made her remarks Thursday outside Wrigley Field after touring the Lakeview Pantry satellite site at the stadium with Chicago Cubs Chairman Tom Ricketts and his sister and fellow board member Laura Ricketts.

Tom Ricketts was wearing a face mask with blue pinstripes — just like the Cubs’ home uniform.

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