A plan by Chicago Public Schools to shorten school holidays to make up days lost to the teachers strike has been met with criticism by the teachers union and mixed reaction from parents.
The five days would be made up Wednesday, Nov. 27; Thursday, Jan. 2; Friday, Jan. 3; Wednesday, June 17; and Thursday, June 18.
The plan would cut into both Thanksgiving and winter breaks. Under the existing calendar, CPS students would not have returned from winter break until Jan. 6. The June makeup dates were both initially scheduled as school improvement days for staff, and those days would move to June 19 and 22.
“We understand that modifications to the school calendar can create real challenges for our families, and we have worked to add makeup days in a manner that prioritizes student learning and minimizes disruption to the fullest extent possible,” CPS Chief Education Officer LaTanya McDade said in a statement.
McDade said officials took care to schedule multiple student attendance days leading up to academic milestones, such as spring AP exams. They also tried to preserve scheduled breaks and avoid extending the school year into another week, she said.
The amended calendar is tentative until it’s approved by the Board of Education, which is scheduled to vote at its next meeting on Nov. 20. The board is also expected to vote to amend its budget to account for changes in spending prompted by the new, tentative contracts with the Chicago Teachers Union and Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents support staff members who walked off the job with the teachers on Oct. 17.
The board is also scheduled to vote on both of those new contracts.
The teachers union is not happy with the calendar proposal. CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates quickly tweeted her take, saying CPS was being “petty” by noting how much district spending was reduced during the strike and by proposing that two of the makeup days occur during winter break.
“January 2 and 3 doesn’t seem to be the best days for student attendance, considering the obvious,” Davis Gates later told the Tribune. “I am absolutely concerned about how those days will impact (the School Quality Rating Policy), which by the way we had a contract demand to do away with. Attendance is one of the factors that determines a school’s rating and that rating determines the vitality of that school.”
As to whether the union has alternate days to propose, she said they’re fielding phone calls and messages from members and talking internally about it.
“It doesn’t say much about CPS’ ability to move forward with goodwill,” Davis Gates said. “We found out via the same press release that you all found out.”
BREAKING: @ChiPubSchools: The district will save $68M by not making up six of the 11 days canceled by the strike.
The teachers strike lasted for 11 days and ended Thursday after CTU and Mayor Lori Lightfoot reached a compromise to make up five of the 11 days. The union wanted to make up all 11.
The new January attendance dates would effectively lop off four days from the recess, since under the current calendar students would have another weekend before returning to school.
Makeup days must take place when teachers and CTU staff would not otherwise be paid, “which severely limited the district’s scheduling options,” according to CPS.
The union took issue with that claim, tweeting that “before taking winter break days,” the district could have had students in class during previously scheduled teacher professional development days and moved those to the end of the school year.
CPS: The options were extremely limited.
CTU members: No they weren’t. They could have used the end of quarter PD days and moved those to the end of the year before taking winter break days.
Parent reactions to the proposed dates were mixed Tuesday afternoon, on social media and among those contacted by the Tribune. A common complaint on Twitter related to existing travel plans, with some users saying they didn’t plan to change those even if it meant their children would miss school.
John Overfield, who has a senior at Taft High School and a sixth grader at Wildwood Elementary, said he’d prefer the days all be added to the end of the year, but he wasn’t concerned about the chosen dates.
“If it were my call, I would just tack on five days to the end of the school year,” Overfield said.
But Miguel Chacon, whose children are in preschool and third grade at Suder Montessori, said he was glad CPS didn’t add more than the two days in June.
“I’m happy that it’s not (all) at the tail end of the (school year), when all of the kids are not really doing much,” Chacon said. “It unfortunately cuts back their winter break, but I’m glad it’s not at the end of the school year. It actually worked out really well where they put the makeup days.”
Along with the updated calendar, CPS also revealed its proposal for an amended budget for this school year, which includes “new investments” and salary increases agreed to in the tentative union contracts plus more tax increment financing money and reduced spending tied to the strike.
The loss of six school days reduces spending by $68 million, and the district is getting another $66 million in additional TIF money from the city, according to CPS. The previously approved budget already included $97 million in TIF money.
CPS officials said the money will enable them to pay for $33 million in additional costs of the CTU contract and $15 million in additional costs of the SEIU contract, afford $25 million in reduced short-term borrowing, and take on $61 million in pension costs shifted from the city to CPS.
The board has scheduled public hearings for 4 to 6 p.m. and 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Nov. 12 to receive feedback from the community on the budget and calendar amendments and the new labor contracts.