Photo courtesy of Chicago Public Schools [Facebook]

As the rising number of COVID-19 cases creates uncertainty around when life will return to normal, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district is handing out more than 100,000 laptops and tablets to its highest-need students for a new remote learning initiative.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the initiative today at a joint press conference with the heads of CPS and City Colleges of Chicago. The goal is to ensure instructional time continues while school buildings and campuses remain closed during the coronavirus crisis. 

CPS families will have more information about remote learning plans by Monday, April 6, and remote learning will begin on Monday, April 13, after the scheduled spring break period. 

“We will not allow the crisis to be an obstacle to our students’ futures and their dreams,” Lightfoot said in a press release. “It was a herculean effort to shift one’s curriculum to an entirely new medium — especially in such a short amount of time — and it’s a testament to the passion and commitment of Chicago’s entire education community that they have been able to do just that.”

When asked if remote learning is an indication that CPS students will be out of school for the remainder of the year, Lightfoot said, “We have no reason to believe that’s the case.”

CPS families will begin receiving the electronic devices soon. Although the district cannot provide internet access for each student, families are able to contact providers including Comcast and AT&T to ask about free access both companies offer to low-income families. 

Meanwhile, nearly 850 laptops have been shipped to City Colleges students in need so far, with another 627 laptops being shipped to students today. Loaner Wi-Fi hotspots will be available to students on a first-come, first-serve basis by the end of the week.

“I am so proud of the teamwork and flexibility shown by our students, faculty and staff who made the transition to remote learning in just one week’s time,” City Colleges Chancellor Juan Salgado said in the release. “We recognize our students, in particular, are facing unprecedented challenges, and we are committed to providing them every possible support to ensure they persist in their courses and reach their academic and career goals.”