Catholic schools near downtown closing for NATO; CPS to stay open
St. Ignatius, Old St. Mary’s to engage students online during summit
05/11/2012 5:28 PM
Catholic schools near downtown are planning on closing their doors during the NATO summit next weekend, but their public counterparts say they’ll stay open, albeit with more security.
St. Ignatius on the Near West Side will be closed both Friday, May 18, and Monday, May 21, as will both of the Francis Xavier Warde School’s campuses in the West Loop and the Gold Coast. Old St. Mary’s in the South Loop and St. Therese in Chinatown will both be closed only on the 21st.
St. Ignatius’ principal, Catherine Karl, said they made the decision not because she was worried about students’ safety, but because it would be difficult for them to even get to the building in the first place with the expected delays from road closures and motorcades.
“Our students commute from so far away — they come from seven different counties, and a lot of them come into downtown on trains,” Karl said. “So being able to get here from downtown and then get home, we were concerned about that.”
But students won’t get the day off, Karl said. Instead, Ignatius will be engaging students online.
“We’ve been prepared for a while to be able to have school without being here,” she said. “Our teachers have all kinds of lesson plans that our students will be able to get electronically. They’ll be able to interact with their teachers from home.”
Using an online system called Edline, the school will post assignments and foster discussion with students at home. Among the tasks, some science classes will watch YouTube videos created by teachers and freshman social studies students will work on an end-of year project on nationalism, Karl said.
Not every assignment will require sitting in front of a computer, she said, and there won’t be a requirement that students plop down and engage with their teachers for seven hours — that’s just not realistic, she said.
“There are some students and teachers doing low-tech things also. Everybody isn’t going to be sitting at a computer,” she said. “We’re not expecting that they’re going to get up at 8 o’clock in the morning and sit down at their computer until 3.”
For students that don’t have a computer or the Internet at home, the school is also loaning out laptops, Karl said. The school’s IT department and library director will be at the school both days as well, providing help to kids and teachers.
If things go well, it’s a system that could be used in the future when school would otherwise be cancelled, she said.
“The direction that the teachers have had from the school is to design things that would work from school or remotely,” she said. “We’ve been treating it like a snow event … With technology right now, we’re able to do so many things that you wouldn’t have even thought to do five years ago.”
Amongst the other schools, Old St. Mary’s said on its website they’ll be holding virtual class on the 21st as well.
St. Therese Principal Phyllis Cavallone-Jurek wrote in a letter posted on the school’s website that she’s asked teachers to keep the students busy.
“Many road closures and pedestrian restrictions have many transportation and safety concerns left unanswered for me regarding the safety of our children,” Cavallone wrote. “I have asked the teachers to give an appropriate amount of homework for the children to make a productive day.”
The schools made their decisions individually, and according to Karl, there was no directive from the Chicago Archdiocese to close the schools.
But Chicago Public Schools is planning to remain open throughout the summit. Jadine Chou, the head of CPS’ Office of Safety and Security, said they’re telling students and teachers to allow extra time to get to school.
“At this time, there are no changes to the school schedule,” Chou said. “If at any time we learn new information that might impact that, we might analyze that. Based on the timing of the end of the summit on Monday, we don’t believe that would warrant a change in the dismissal policy.”