About those 5 lost school days at CPS…

There is one thing to regret about the Chicago Board of Education’s decision not to make up five lost school days due to January’s clash with the Chicago Teachers Union.

It is that more than 340,000 school children have lost a week of full-time education that they will not entirely make up for.

As for the teachers who lose their salaries, too bad. It’s a sore spot for them, but as the saying goes, it’s on them.

This is the risk their union took when it chose what was essentially an illegal – and ultimately futile – strike. Teachers lost a week’s pay, with no guarantee of making it up, in a dispute over COVID-19 safety protocols that should have been resolved in talks with the CPS while school remained in session.

The union got very little of what it demanded, after taking the children out of school for five days.

Meanwhile, it’s a safe bet that the January fiasco was also a sore point for parents, who had to make childcare arrangements on the fly right after sending their children back to class.

With the money saved by not adding extra days to the school year, CPS will offer after-school and Saturday programs, for which teachers can be paid. It is at least something that benefits children, and schools should be given clear instructions and timelines to plan programs to help students get back on the path to learning.

All of which brings us to next school year, when tackling learning loss – as well as student mental health, which has been severely impacted by the pandemic – should be paramount.

The new 2022-23 school calendar has an Aug. 22 start date, which will put CPS firmly in line with suburban districts that start the school year before Labor Day. The long-standing traditional post-Labor Day start in CPS has put schoolchildren across the city at a disadvantage, especially when it comes to preparing for Advanced Placement, the SAT and other important tests.

In something of a surprise, principals, teachers and students preferred August 22 to August 29, according to CPS. The parents preferred the later date.

It is important for CPS to collect and consider feedback before making important decisions like this. But at the end of the day, district leaders must do what is best for the education of children.

That means getting back to school before Labor Day — and so be it.

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