Aug 15, 2022 - News

What to watch as Chicago schools start a new year

Illustration of a percent sign made out of apples and a pencil.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Hundreds of thousands of students, staffers and parents are gearing up for a return to CPS in just one week.

Why it matters: The shift will shake up traffic patterns, work schedules and business revenues across the Chicago area.

Plus, this school year brings important changes. If you haven't been taking notes, we'll share ours.

COVID: Vaccinations and masks remain optional but "strongly recommended."

  • Under a newly expanded Test-to-Stay program, unvaccinated students and staff with close COVID-19 exposures can remain in schools if they continue to test negative and remain symptom-free.
  • Schools are no longer required to offer weekly testing, but families who do want it can sign up their students here.

Staff shortages: Like districts nationwide, CPS is hurting for teachers. Last week CEO Pedro Martinez told Fox 32 Chicago he was still trying to fill more than 1,000 positions.

  • To address bus driver shortages, Martinez says CPS is raising driver pay to $20-25 an hour, offering monthly travel stipends or free CTA bus passes.

Enrollment: CPS' student body could drop below 300,000 this year, according to WBEZ. Twenty years ago, it was over 400,000.

  • The biggest losses are among Black students, with Latino student populations also facing recent declines. White, Asian and other groups have remained steady or risen.

The bad news: A recent decrease in low-income students cost the district $30 million in state funding this year. Still, that's a small bite out of a $9.4 billion budget.

The good news: Enrollment is declining faster than funding, which, at least in the short term, may mean more per-pupil spending and smaller class sizes.

Ding ding: Yesterday marked the end of the tax break on school supplies. We hope you got your shopping in.

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