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Chicago Public Schools purchases 100,000 laptops, prepares to shut down some classrooms again

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Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Chicago Public Schools officials have announced that they have approved the purchase of as many as 100,000 new laptops in anticipation of shutting down "some classrooms" in response to the emergence of the omicron variant, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The district did note earlier this week that it views a "system-wide" shutdown of Chicago Public Schools to be "unlikely" at this time.

Chicago Public Schools were among the most reticent in the nation to reopen last year, leading to a contentious battle between the Chicago Teachers Union and liberal Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Even Lightfoot, who is generally regarded as a doctrinaire liberal, grew frequently frustrated with CTU tactics and their refusal to follow scientific guidelines which indicated that reopening schools was safe. The CTU continued to obstruct school reopenings as late as March of 2021 through such underhanded tactics as ordering their membership to refuse to disclose vaccination status.

Now, in spite of indications that omicron is by all accounts less severe than the Delta variant which preceded it, Chicago Public Schools appears ready to to at least partially shut down in-person learning in schools. According to the Sun-Times report, the district had already purchased over 100,000 laptops prior to this July in an attempt to ensure that every child in the district would have access to a reliable computer in the event remote learning became "required" again. However, in the last week, the district approved the purchase of another 100,000 computers under a contract that was approved in August 2020.

When asked why the district needed another 100,000 computers so soon after such a massive purchase in July a district spokesperson told the Times that the computers were needed "in preparation for more classrooms to switch to remote learning if needed amid a possible COVID-19 surge in January." The spokesperson did not answer how much the new computers cost the district.

And, while the spokesperson indicated that there would not be a district-wide shutdown, she also indicated that school shutdown decisions could be made "on the classroom and school levels instead," which, given past history, would strongly indicate that more forced remote learning could soon be coming to the Windy City.

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