As Chicago Public Schools Reopen In-Person, Nearly 100,000 Students Might Not Show Up

Community member Cynthia Johnson speaks at a Chicago Public Schoo
Community member Cynthia Johnson speaks at a Chicago Public School back to school forum at Michele Clark High School in Chicago on Aug. 10, 2021. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)
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The Epoch Times

CHICAGO—As Chicago Public Schools (CPS) plan to reopen all 638 schools for in-person classes in the fall, 80,620 students are deemed to have medium risks of not coming back, according to CPS’s analysis of attendance rates.

These students were chronically absent during the last school year, when CPS pushed for citywide online learning amid the pandemic. Another 17,661 students who attended few or no classes are deemed at high risk, according to CPS director of family and community engagement Kareem Pender at a community engagement forum on Aug. 10.

The three grades with the biggest numbers of high-risk students are 9th grade, 10th grade, and 11th grade; at 2,258, 2,060, and 1,719 respectively.

To get them back, CPS asks schools and community organizations to canvass neighborhoods, make phone calls to students’ homes, and visit student homes in person. The CPS has about 340,000 students system-wide.

“We cannot afford to lose one student,” Michele Clark High School principal Charles Anderson told The Epoch Times, “We are going to find them.” Anderson asked his security guard, behavioral health team members, and counselor to find high-risk students at their homes. He declined to share details about those visits.

According to the most recent data published by CPS, Michele Clark has one of the highest truancy rates among CPS schools: One out of three Michele Clark students skipped virtual classes between March 8 and 12.

The school sits in the Austin neighborhood, which this year has the second-highest number of homicides among all Chicago neighborhoods, at 42. Another 212 people were wounded in Austin, mostly through gunshots.

“For a lot of young people, the school is a safe haven,” Andriene Johnson, vice president of violence intervention and prevention services at UCAN, told The Epoch Times. UCAN, sitting right across the street from Michele Clark, helps most at-risk youths to get back on the right track.

By Cara Ding

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