Teachers, students discontent with make-up days

By Maryann Ress

On Nov. 5, CPS announced that as part of the deal to end the October Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) strike, schools would have to make up five of the 11 days missed over the strike’s duration. 

As a condition of the deal, the scheduled dates had to be on days when teachers and CTU staff would not otherwise be paid: Nov. 27, Jan. 2, Jan. 3, Jun. 17 and Jun. 18.

As a result, Thanksgiving Break was shortened by one day, and Winter Break was shortened by two days.

Some students, like Alexis Rivas, Div. 070, were upset to hear that their breaks were abbreviated.

“I do think cutting our breaks short are unfair because they could have just added on the days to the end of the year,” Rivas said. “I understand that it would have affected when we get out for summer break, but that’s just my opinion.”

The letter from CPS read that, “We were also mindful of major academic milestones, including spring Advanced Placement exams, and did not want our school year to extend significantly into summer vacations, which would further impact families.”

Assistant Principal Ms. Thompson, who oversees the English, OMEGA and attendance departments at Lane, explained that CPS schools are required by the state to have a certain amount of instructional minutes within a school day and year, so they are not penalized by the state.

Penalized districts could lose a percentage of their funding from the state, according to Thompson.

Thompson noticed an increase in the amount of student and teacher absences on the first mandatory make-up day, before Thanksgiving Break.

“There were more kids who were absent than there would be on a typical school day, but not as many as we anticipated at first,” Thompson said. “At school, we always have to prepare for the worst scenario, and hope for the best scenario.”

Thompson is aware of the possibility that the make-up days might lower the attendance rates, which can result in Lane losing points in the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP).

The SQRP determines what rating a school has. Lane currently has the highest rating, which is Level 1+.

“Every piece matters,” Ms. Thompson said. “It’s not that we’re enforcers who want everyone to come to school, but instead we want to be held to a high standard and for all of our students to get the important instructional time they need.”

Cecilia Salazar, Div. 075, understands why there is a need for make-up days, but she doesn’t like that Winter Break was cut short as a result.

“I was planning on visiting two colleges over break but both of them were on the days that we are now scheduled to come back on,” Salazar said. “I have to see if I can still make it or find another date to visit.”

However, she said she does understand that having the strike was important for the future.

“I support them [the teachers] and what they decide to do is what they decide to do,” Salazar said.

Additionally, the make-up days could affect when teachers take off for holidays, which Thompson said the administration has been preparing for.

“We have asked staff members that if they can be here, that they please attend,” Thompson said. 

Some teachers do pitch in to help watch students when other teachers take the day off.

“We have had teachers in the building who have even told us they could come watch a class during their prep periods,” Thompson said. “We have a very giving staff, just like we have a giving student body. That helps to make those kinds of days more manageable.”

Thompson said that the make-up days will provide more time for students to recover the time they lost during the break to learn at school.

“Instructionally, I wish you guys had as many days as possible to be in the building, to maximize your learning experience,” Thompson said. 

Thompson also recognized how the strike and make-up days conflicted with plans for this year’s graduating class to celebrate Lane’s traditions for seniors, such as senior spirit week and Oktoberfest.

“As a former student at Lane Tech, I recognize how important senior year is, on all academic and personal levels,” Thompson said. “It’s your time to shine, and you are the top beings in the building.”

Thompson also feels thankful that there is still a break at all. 

“I’m grateful we still get the time because it could have gone very differently,” Thompson said. “Spring Break could have been taken away, and certain holidays.”