Non-Profit Works To Keep At-Risk CPS Students 'Logged In' To Remote Learning


CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- Chicago Public Schools found that several hundred students were considered "out of touch" when remote learning ended before summer break. Now that CPS is starting the school year with remote learning, a non-profit is making sure at-risk CPS students are logged in and ready to go for the upcoming school year.

Communities In Schools is a non-profit that provides mentors, partnerships, and tutoring resources to students, who may otherwise drop out. They work with Chicago Public Schools students to keep them engaged in their education.

The relationship between student and mentor used to rely on face to face communication, but now CIS is preparing for another round of remote learning in Chicago Public Schools. 

Dr. Judith Allen, Chief Operating Officer of Communities In Schools Chicago, said between the strike last fall and remote learning in the spring, her organization knows how to stay in touch with students. 

"Once we went offline, in terms of face to face, it was phone calls, it was emails, it was reaching out to parents. It was everything we could do to sustain that momentum," she said.

While remote learning has led to remote communication between students and mentors, Allen added that a student is more likely to open up about their problems via email or text.

"Whether that be the change in their financial situation at home, or illnesses, anything along those lines. We've been able to craft a way to work around that. Those workarounds are happening more and more," Allen said.

The biggest challenge, Allen said, for CIS mentors and tutors is helping students cope with the emotional trauma that may cause a child to lose interest in school. She said the COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on everyone, including children who may be dealing with massive life changes.

"When a child is experiencing something like a death, or a family [member> losing their job, or having to cohabitate with other family - however that changes the family dynamic, when we can't see these children and we can't really visualize the pain they are going through, it makes it a lot tougher for us to be able to provide that safety net for them," Allen said.

And while this has been an unorthodox year for CIS, Allen said mentors have remained in touch with their students through it all, including over the summer.

"We gave these students projects and things to work on, whether it's journaling or getting ready for the next school year, to keep that conversation going as best as we could," Allen said.

CIS said it will work with 58,000 CPS students this year.  It also has a program designed to help freshmen get used to high school.