Chicago Public Schools is planning to push the start of the 2024-25 school year back by about a week to make room for more important matters: the Democratic National Convention.
“This shift not only accommodates the city’s logistical needs as they related to the influx of Conventiongoers, but it also allows time for students to attend, volunteer, and participate in the civic process of hosting the Convention,” the district said in a statement cited by WTTW.
The proposed calendars released on Thursday cover both the 2024-25 and 2025-26 academic years, with Aug. 26 marked as the start next year and Aug. 18 the year after. The current school year started on Aug. 21.
The district anticipates an “estimated influx of 75,000 visitors” in the Windy City during the convention that runs Aug. 19-22. The theme of the convention is “our future is created here,” focusing attention on CPS and students it wants engaged with the Democratic Party.
The most recent state data shows 26% of Chicago students can read at grade level, while only about 17% are proficient in math, statistics that remain below pre-pandemic levels, according to Chalkbeat Chicago. Those struggles continue despite about $2.8 billion in federal COVID relief funds from taxpayers aimed at addressing learning loss in recent years.
The poor academic performance is due in part to chronic student absenteeism. State data shows about 28% of Illinois students were chronically absent during the 2022-23 school year, a rate that has increased from 17.5% in the last full year before the pandemic, according to the Illinois Policy Institute.
The proposed calendars will lengthen the summer break and push the start of the semester back until after winter break, on Jan. 17. Classes would run through June 12 in 2024-25, and until June 4 the following year.
The delays come as Chicago students continue to miss classes to participate in walkouts, most recently this week with the support of the Chicago Teachers Union to call for a ceasefire in Gaza and demand a “free Palestine.” That protest followed efforts by some Chicago teachers to inform students “Israel is a settler colonial state created by Zionists (with support from US and UK imperialism)” that “commits daily violence and exclusion of the … Palestinian people,” according to a recent announcement from Teachers for Social Justice.
The email notice sent out in early January made no mention of the violence engulfing the Democrat-run city, which resulted in the death of another student on Wednesday, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
City officials are now collecting feedback from students and parents on the proposed calendars ahead of an expected vote to approve later this month. CPS sent a survey to students that’s open through Friday, while parents and community members can weigh in until next Wednesday.
So far, about 7,500 parents, staff, principals, teachers, and others have weighed in, WTTW reports.
“We’re especially grateful for all those who took the time to share their feedback on our calendar development to date and we hope that our community will take a moment to weigh in on these draft calendars,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in a statement.
While it’s unclear how many comments received oppose shifting the school schedule to accommodate a political event, its obvious folks online are frustrated.
“That’s exactly what kids who can’t read or write need,” read one post to X.
“Sounds like a crock of (poop emoji),” another wrote.
“Why? What’s the reasoning?” another user added. “How does @ChiPubSchools function when there’s any other event taking place at the @UnitedCenter during the school year?”