Today, Chicago Public Schools sent an e-mail to staff about how we will make up the four January days schools closed because it was too cold for students to attend when the Polar Vortex hit our city on January 6 & 7 and again on Jan 27 & 28.
Signed by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the e-mail we received included this information:
Due to the January 27th and 28th weather days, CPS is making additional adjustments to the academic calendar. The following is a description of all the changes made to the calendar due to the class cancellations in January:
March 28th was a Professional Development Day and is now a student attendance day.
June 11th was a Professional Development Day and is now a student attendance day.
June 12th was a Flex Professional Development Day [time that could be used by schools for planning earlier in the school year at their discretion] and will become a student attendance day.
June 13th was the first day of summer break for teachers and will become a student attendance day.
June 16th will become the Professional Development Day originally scheduled for March 28th [so we’ll have school on March 28].
June 17th was a summer inter-session day and will become a Professional Development Day originally scheduled for June 11th.
Our school calendar includes a couple of days in case of severe weather, so I expected to make up two more days missed in January. But here’s where the rest of the leadership’s decision goes wrong.
Lincoln’s birthday next week could have been cancelled—just like many other districts decided to do. A mid-week holiday—on a Wednesday—throws off teaching and learning and encourages student (and staff) absences Tuesday and Thursday. We should be in school next Wednesday.
While we’ll have 3 more days of school in June, let’s face it—everyone’s mind will be on summer vacation. Plus, report card grades in high school are entered a week before those make-up days. Any teaching that might happen June 11-13 will not affect students’ grades. Students know this; those days equate to baby sitting.
And if it’s hot, we know many schools don’t have adequate or any A/C. Let’s remember the hot first few days of school in August.
The logic goes: we closed schools because it was too cold, so we’ll extend school when it’s hot. What?!
Finally, we have a longer school day in Chicago so the extra time spent in school should balance out the less-than-a-handful of missed days due to the weather. We can use the two make-up days programmed in the calendar. The other two we should just forget about. Let’s face it, taking two days off the school calendar will not transform anyone’s academic future. It was the Polar Vortex--an exception to our weather. If students don't make up two missed days, they'll be fine. No one's academic future will be ruined if they don't or enhanced if they do.
What I want to know is who was at the table from Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union to make this decision? It sounds like a sarcastic question—but I’m serious.
Who—who will likely sit in air-conditioned offices in June—sat in a comfortably heated room this month to make this decision, which affects over 37,000 staff members and over 400,000 students?
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