THE LOOP — Chicago Public Schools dismissed rumors swirling this week that have the district considering a halt to classes 11 days early in a cost-cutting measure.
"CPS is planning to continue the remainder of the school year without interruption," said district spokeswoman Emily Bittner on Friday. She said the district would stick to its calendar with June 21 as the last day of attendance and expressed wonder at how the rumor got started.
Teachers and parents were nonetheless abuzz in various neighborhoods that the district could conceivably halt classes June 10.
The calendar at the start of the year was 180-days long, including three institute days. That's up from 2012, when Mayor Rahm Emanuel added 10 days to the 170-day calendar. State law requires 176 days of instruction, but many districts have gotten waivers over the years.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool has been adamant about the district's need to cut costs ahead of a necessary $688 million pension payment June 30, including a March call for principals to trim whatever spending they could to conserve cash.
CPS teachers, students and parents were also no doubt rattled by how Chicago State University canceled spring break in a cost-cutting maneuver in the midst of the state budget impasse.
The district has also succumbed to financial pressure by declaring three furlough days for teachers. Yet that included only one student attendance day, March 25, and two teacher institute days, June 22-23, immediately after the last scheduled attendance day.
Also creating uncertainty, though, is the continuing gamesmanship between the district and the Chicago Teachers Union.
Teachers staged a one-day strike April 1. The justification for that, they said, was unfair labor practices, including the district's failure to give raises this year with the contract still under negotiation. They were also objecting to the state's failure to adequately fund education.
Yet teachers could still strike on a contract impasse as early as mid-May if they do not reach agreement with CPS on a new deal. A fact-finding report, one of the final legal hurdles before a strike can be declared, was due this week, and if it does not produce progress on a new deal teachers can legally go out in 30 days.
"We are working hard to reach a final agreement with the CTU leadership to prevent a strike," Bittner said.
So CPS students should still plan on attending school through June 21, although, as they say, things can always change — thus the rampant rumors.
The Chicago Teachers Union didn't respond to a request for comment.
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