CPS to Parents: Contingency Plan Is for ‘Neediest Children’

By Patty Wetli | Friday, September 7, 2012

During a town hall teleconference with parents Thursday night, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard fielded questions about the system’s “Children First” contingency plan in the event of a teachers strike on Monday, Sept. 10.

Having announced the 144 district locations that will be open to students during a potential strike, Brizard took pains to lower expectations. “Our goal is not to replicate school…it’s to provide support for families in need,” he said. Though any student will be welcomed, parents were encouraged to exhaust all other options before availing themselves of CPS’ plan.

“We’re looking to serve the neediest children,” said Brizard. Of the district’s 400,000 students, he anticipates 150,000 or fewer to show up at the CPS sites. Those who do will not have their time counted as an official attendance day.

“We cannot run schools,” said Brizard, unwittingly handing CTU a gift of a sound bite.

Breakfast, lunch and “some constructive” activities will be provided, but no transportation. “The logistics are way too complicated,” he said. (Indeed, parents lit up message boards with reports of busing nightmares the first week of class.) Costs incurred by special education students normally bused to schools would be reimbursed, according to Brizard, as part of the $25 million fund CPS has set aside for “Children First.”

The sites will be staffed, as CSJ previously reported, by principals, assistant principals and non-union employees from Central Office, many of whom, Brizard noted, previously worked in schools. CPS is aiming for at most a 25-to-one ratio of students to adults, which advocates of smaller class size find ironic, and each site will have at least one nurse on hand, yet another improvement over regular CPS standards.

Though the teleconference was intended to clarify the contingency plan, it raised nearly as many questions as it answered: Are all sites truly equipped to handle severely disabled students? What “online courses” will be available for seniors? How exactly is the Park District providing support? Brizard continually urged parents to call 3-1-1 for greater detail, which, at 9:30 this morning had less than a 10-minute wait time.

For those families who don’t fall into the “neediest” category, the parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand has compiled a list of childcare options, including a number of “strike camps.”

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