Frequently Asked Questions: Education and COVID-19
This information is up-to-date to the best of our knowledge as of May 4, 2020. This page is also available in Spanish.
Governor Pritzker has ordered schools to use remote learning for the rest of this school year. For Chicago Public Schools (CPS), this learning is a combination of electronic instruction and paper packets. New information arrives daily, but one idea guides all planning: Schools should prioritize the physical and emotional well-being of students over everything else.
Students will be graded on assignments during remote learning, but they cannot be penalized for their performance during this fourth quarter. All students in grades PreK-8 will be promoted. High school students will not have their grade point averages lowered, though they may not receive credit for a course if they do not complete the work.
- What is happening with final grades and promotion?
- Will meals continue to be provided once remote learning starts?
- What happens if my child does not have an electronic device or access to the internet?
- What happens if my child does not complete the new assignments?
- What if my child does not understand an assignment and I cannot help?
- What about students who are experiencing homelessness (i.e., Students in Temporary Living Situations, or STLS)?
- What happens if my high school senior has not completed all requirements?
- My child's mental health is becoming more fragile. Where can I find help?
- What does CPS plan for 2020-21?
Special Education Questions
- What are the most important updates for diverse learners?
- How does it work for my child to receive these related services?
- What if I do not want my child to receive these services remotely?
- What is a remote learning plan?
- My child has an IEP. Will s/he continue to receive services?
- My child has a paraprofessional (aide). Will that person keep working with my child?
- Have the schedules changed for IEP meetings and evaluations?
- Will my child receive compensatory services for the instruction that was missed?
- Is it too late to ask for a special education evaluation now?
- My child has a 504 plan. What does remote learning mean for that plan?
- Will my child be eligible for extended school year (ESY)?
WHAT IS HAPPENING WITH FINAL GRADES AND PROMOTION?
Pre-K and Kindergarten—All students will be promoted. These students never received traditional grades, but they do receive ratings on a variety of developmental scales. On the report card, the teacher will note growth if any was observed. If a student regressed or seemed to stay at the same level, the teacher will record, “Unable to rate.”
Grades 1-8—All students will be promoted. Students may receive a letter grade, a “pass,” or an “incomplete,” but they will all advance to the next grade for 2020-21. Teachers will give letter grades of A to F on assignments during fourth quarter. A student who maintains or improves their third quarter final grade will be issued a letter grade. A student whose final fourth quarter grade is lower than their third quarter grade but is still at least a D will earn a Pass. A student who earns an F by failing to engage in remote learning will earn an Incomplete and be prioritized for summer school.
High School—Students will earn credit for courses if they earn a letter grade or a “Pass.” A student who engages in electronic learning (e-learning) will earn a letter grade if the fourth quarter grade is the same as or better than the third quarter grade. If the fourth quarter grade is lower but at least a D, the student will earn a “Pass” without any impact on GPA. A student who completes learning packets instead of e-learning will earn a “Pass” with no impact on GPA. Students who do not participate and attempt to complete work of any kind will earn an “Incomplete.” The student will not receive course credit and will be prioritized for credit recovery courses at no charge to the student.
Will meals continue to be provided once remote learning starts?
Schools will continue to provide three breakfasts and lunches for any child in need. These meals can be picked up twice a week from any designated school for all children in the household, whether or not your children attend that school. Schools have posted hours, generally from 9:00-1:00. The list of 276 schools providing meals (as of April 6, 2020) can be found here. If you are unable to get to a school, the district will deliver food. Call 773-553-KIDS.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY CHILD DOES NOT HAVE AN ELECTRONIC DEVICE OR ACCESS TO THE INTERNET?
You should contact your school principal by email. CPS has promised to distribute 100,000 devices to families, prioritizing diverse learners (students with disabilities), students in temporary living situations, and students taking advanced level courses. The district has also designated some schools as high need and prioritized those. Although CPS acknowledges that it will not have enough devices for every student, your child’s principal may be able to locate a device for you. Also, AT&T and Comcast are offering free internet for qualifying families for 60 days and at a low monthly rate beyond that.
E-learning (digital) is not mandated by the Illinois State Board of Education or CPS. Digital is one form of remote learning, but packets of printed material are also a form of remote learning. Every student is expected to receive instruction in some form. CPS is offering a combination of remote learning options. A student’s grade cannot be harmed by choosing one format over another, but a student’s GPA can only be improved if the student engages in e-learning.
What happens if my child does not complete the new assignments?
Your child will receive an incomplete for the grade if he or she is in grade school. The student will be promoted to the next grade but will be prioritized for summer school and expected to attend if it is offered. A high school student will receive a grade of Incomplete and no course credit. The Incomplete will not hurt the child’s GPA, but the child will have to take the course over.
What if my child does not understand an assignment and I cannot help?
Contact the teacher! Teachers in CPS are required to set aside some time each day to respond to emails and calls. All teacher email addresses should be available on the school’s website. Call your school’s main office number and leave a message if you do not have access to email.
What about students who are experiencing homelessness (i.e., Students in Temporary Living Situations, or STLS)?
Every school is mandated by federal law (McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act) to have an STLS liaison. This staff member, often a counselor or clerk, should have reached out several weeks ago to all students experiencing homelessness. If you know a family in this situation who does not receive a call from the school, please ask that family to alert their school.
WHAT HAPPENS IF MY HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR HAS NOT COMPLETED ALL REQUIREMENTS?
Many graduation requirements will be waived for students in the class of 2020. Examples include the financial literacy requirement, the Constitution requirement, and service learning hours. The full list can be found in the new Remote Learning Grading Guide here.
MY CHILD’S MENTAL HEALTH IS BECOMING MORE FRAGILE. WHERE CAN I FIND HELP?
CPS counselors, psychologists and social workers can meet with students 1:1 through Google Meet. Please contact your child’s counselor as a first step. Your child can also text “TALK" to 552020 or “HABLAR" for service in Spanish, and a trained interventionist will respond immediately.
Some other useful resources are the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness at firstname.lastname@example.org, the Healthy CPS Hotline at 773-553-KIDS (5437) and the Illinois Department of Human Services website on Mental Health.
WHAT DOES CPS PLAN FOR 2020-21?
The district has not announced plans for summer school or next school year. Many scenarios are under consideration, but everything depends on the course of the pandemic. CPS is waiting for guidance from Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot.
SPECIAL EDUCATION QUESTIONS
WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT UPDATES FOR DIVERSE LEARNERS?
- ALL related service providers (e.g., social workers and speech therapists) may provide 1:1 support for students through digital platforms.
- All students with an IEP will receive a “remote learning plan” that outlines goals, accommodations, and supports only for the period of remote learning.
- A staff member from the school should check in at least once a week with every student who has an IEP.
HOW DOES IT WORK FOR MY CHILD TO RECEIVE THESE RELATED SERVICES?
The process is not completely clear yet because some providers were only given authorization last week, but here’s what we know: Google Meet has been approved for one-on-one communications between individual students and:
- School nurses
- School-based speech and language pathologists
- School-based occupational therapists
- School-based physical therapists
- School-based psychologists and social workers.
- School counselors
If a student is going to meet individually with a related service provider, the provider will schedule the meeting. A password for the meeting will be sent right before it is scheduled to start in order to protect against people hacking into the meeting. The service provider will begin and end the meeting; students cannot be on the Google Meet without the teacher present.
Not all students will be offered 1:1 meetings. Related service providers may also work on IEP goals through consultation with teachers and paraprofessionals, collaboration with parents, and co-teaching.
WHAT IF I DO NOT WANT MY CHILD TO RECEIVE THESE SERVICES REMOTELY?
Some parents have good reasons for not wanting to permit these services. There may not be a private space in the house, the parent may be at work and feel uncomfortable about unsupervised 1:1 time, or the service might require too much parent coaching. Regardless of the reason, parents can refuse the service. The student will not lose the service in his/her IEP, but it is not known whether the service will be made up at a later date.
WHAT IS A REMOTE LEARNING PLAN?
The purpose of the plan is to provide services comparable to the student’s IEP within the context of remote learning. School days have been shortened for all students, so minutes of instruction will be adjusted. The student may require different accommodations, and those will be documented. Remote learning plans are supposed to be created as soon as possible, but we have not seen one yet. We do know that IEPs are in place until the plans are created; the remote plans are only in effect during remote learning; parents will receive a Notice of Conference and participate in the planning; and parents can challenge the remote plans using the same procedures they always have available to challenge the district. Even if a parent rejects the remote plan, the student’s IEP will still be in place once school resumes in person.
My child has an IEP. Will s/he continue to receive services?
Yes. Special education teachers should provide remote instruction focused on IEP goals and should collaborate with general education teachers to modify assignments as detailed in the IEP. In reality, this may mean that special education teachers choose a few goals on which to focus. Individualized, 1:1 instruction may be difficult to implement. Teachers in CPS are allowed to use Google Chat and other e-learning platforms, but those options will not be available to all students, and teachers are not required to use them when they’re available.
MY CHILD HAS A PARAPROFESSIONAL (AIDE). WILL THAT PERSON KEEP WORKING WITH MY CHILD?
Yes. When remote learning began, paraprofessionals were told to support classroom teachers. The new guidance suggests that their roles have been expanded. Some things they can do include checking in on students, helping students to navigate remote platforms and keep up with their schedules, and reinforcing instruction. However, a paraprofessional who meets with a student on Google Meet to reinforce instruction must also have the teacher present for the meeting.
HAVE THE SCHEDULES CHANGED FOR IEP MEETINGS AND EVALUATIONS?
All federal timelines remain as they were. IEP meetings are continuing to occur remotely, either through videoconferencing or telephone calls. As always, you will receive a Notice of Conference at least ten days before the scheduled meeting. You will receive a draft IEP a few days before the meeting so that you can participate as a fully-informed team member. In our experience, these meetings have gone smoothly. However, if you have a meeting scheduled for your child and would like to wait, you should tell the case manager that you want to wait.
Evaluation timelines have not changed either, but they are a more complicated. Many assessments can be done remotely. These include assessments such as parent and teacher rating scales, data reviews, and interviews. Some assessments cannot be completed remotely. For example, classroom observations, fine motor skills assessments, and assistive technology evaluations, require school to be in session. If you and the rest of the IEP team believe that adequate assessments could be completed remotely, the eligibility meeting will be scheduled within the required 60 school days. If you and the team do not believe that enough information can be collected right now, the meeting should be scheduled as soon as school resumes.
Will my child receive compensatory services for the instruction that was missed?
Schools are not required to make up for anything that was missed from March 17-30. When education stops for all students, special education stops as well. Compensation for instruction that is missed during remote learning has not been determined. Families should track what services are received during remote learning in case they want to pursue compensatory services later. We provide a sample tracker here.
Is it too late to ask for a special education evaluation now?
No. Parents should still email or write to the principal or case manager, explaining why they believe an evaluation should take place. The district still has 14 school days to respond and either schedule a meeting or deny the evaluation (always providing a reason for the denial). Remote learning days count as school days.
My child has a 504 plan. What does remote learning mean for that plan?
School districts will still be required to follow 504 plans. Whatever accommodations the plan includes, e.g., reduced workload and extended time, will still be in effect.
WILL MY CHILD BE ELIGIBLE FOR EXTENDED SCHOOL YEAR (ESY)?
CPS has not yet determined whether or not ESY will take place this summer. IEP teams are supposed to use the same criteria for including ESY in an IEP that they have always used. The most common criterion is called “regression/recoupment.” In other words, does the child forget more than other students during a long break and take longer to relearn the skills? In general students do not receive ESY for being behind their classmates academically. We have not heard about any plans to change ESY.