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Chicago Public Schools Welcomes Back Students for First Day of School Monday, August 21

21 August 2023

The District to focus on students’ continued academic progress and well-being, expanded pre-K offerings, college and career preparation, and operational efficiencies and improvements during the school year

CPS Office of Communications

Phone: 773-553-1620
Twitter: @chipubschools
Facebook: chicagopublicschools

CHICAGO – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students returned to classes today (Monday, August 21) for a school year that promises continued academic growth, expanded out-of-school time opportunities and social-emotional supports. The school year begins with an additional $240 million in educational investments and priorities, expanded preschool opportunities for the District’s youngest learners, and a calendar year that is aligned with surrounding districts and offers consistency and predictability to students, families, and educators.

“As a former teacher and the father of three CPS students, the first day of school is dear to my heart. Meeting new students and welcoming back former students is a time-honored tradition for students and educators alike,” said Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson. “I wish our teachers, staff, and school communities, and of course our students, a great school year full of learning, friendship, and growth.”

Mayor Johnson and CEO Martinez started the first day together at Jacob Beidler Elementary School where they rang in the school year before proceeding together to Brighton Park Elementary School and Kenwood Academy High School. They will end the day at Robinson Elementary School where they will help distribute free pizza, courtesy of Home Run Inn.

“There is nothing like the first day of school energy,” said Board President Jianan Shi. “I am thrilled to be visiting west side schools and sustainable community schools today. Our board members will be across the city today joining students, teachers, staff and families on their first day of school.“

Last school year, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez and his District leadership team set a new foundational standard of excellence for all schools that will continue in 2023-24 school year and feature:

  • Reasonable class sizes and fewer split grade-level classes
  • Expanded school programming in pre-K, the arts, dual language, and college prep
  • Additional intervention supports, including more nurses, counselors, social workers, academic interventionists, and advocates for students in temporary living situations (STLS)
  • Increased support and professional development for teachers
  • Targeted support at schools that serve students with the most needs
  • Stronger social-emotional and mental health supports

“After yet another amazing summer where many of our students, staff and school communities remained connected, it’s time to kick off the 2023-24 school year,” said CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “The District continues to build on gains in literacy, graduation rates, capital investments, and college and career success, and we are looking forward to continued academic growth and well being. Our staff, teachers, principals, and District leaders can’t wait to welcome back our students and support their continued success this year.”


CPS educators and staff are working hard to ensure students have access to resources that help students get to school safely, stay nourished so they can learn and play, and access health resources so they can remain in the classroom.

The District has hired nearly 500 more teachers and more than 700 more education support staff - teachers assistants, special education classroom assistants, counselors, nurses, etc… - than last year at this time and the diversity of new hires remains strong. This year, 47 percent of new CPS teachers identify as Black or Latinx, up from 33 percent in 2017, and 58 percent of new CPS teachers identify as teachers of color, up from 38 percent in 2017.

  • Amid the ongoing national bus driver shortage, the District has prioritized transportation services for Diverse Learners and Students in Temporary Living Situations (STLS), allowing those that opt out of services to receive a monthly stipend. General education students in selective enrollment or magnet programs can take advantage of free CTA cards. As of Monday, the District provided transportation for more than 7,100 students (Diverse Learners or those in temporary living situations) while families of another 3,100 students accepted a monthly stipend.
  • More than 78,000 students at 188 District schools will receive the additional support of the District’s Safe Passage program which aims to improve student safety during daily walks to and from school and increase engagement through partnerships with community-based organizations.
  • CPS will continue to make meals accessible to all students across the District at no cost, offering meals that meet or exceed USDA nutrition standards with a diverse range of menu items that limit sodium, fat, and calories as well as provide maximum servings for fruits and vegetables. With the input of student focus groups, the District is increasing the scratch pilot cooking program to five more schools this year and will also pilot a food court style dining option at several schools. CPS will also feature and serve limited time offerings at schools that will feature special new recipes and/or potential new menu items.
  • District leaders and educators have made the health and safety of CPS students their highest priority since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. As CPS starts a new school year, District leaders will continue to adjust protocols in response to state and federal health recommendations and will provide updates on the CPS website and to families. The District will continue its work with public health partners to maintain an appropriate response to this ongoing challenge.
  • CPS strives to ensure students in every neighborhood have access to safe, accessible, high-quality facilities where they can play and learn. The District’s Facilities team is in the process of completing more than 60 site improvement projects for the new school year, including 55 new or renovated playgrounds for students to enjoy.

Between July 21 and August 18, CEO Martinez, Chief Education Officer Bogdana Chkoumbova and top District leaders, along with Mayor Johnson, welcomed families to the District’s 13 Back-to-School Bashes which took place across Chicago. At these events, students and families connected with their school communities, received backpacks filled with school supplies, and many took advantage of access to health-related information.

“Our District leaders, school staff, and our collaborators within the school communities are continuously working to provide CPS students with the tools and resources necessary to succeed – even during the summer months,” said CPS Chief Education Officer Chkoumbova. “We are committed to continue working with our school staff to ensure they have the supports they need to provide students with an equitable and high-quality education no matter where they live or go to school.”

Investing in Student Success

As CPS continues to focus on academic recovery due to the wide-reaching impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the District has worked with school communities to prioritize investments that provide schools with the tools and resources they need to help students learn, grow and thrive. The District’s budget for the 2023-24 school year totals $9.4 billion, which includes an increase of $243 million in school-based funding — for a total of more than $450 million in new funding for schools over the past two years. As a result, the average per-pupil spending at the school level will increase this year by over $1,000 and the District will be able to increase investments in key areas to support the District’s Diverse Learners and students with the greatest needs, from pre-K through high school.

Expanding Early Learning Opportunities

Access to high-quality pre-K is one of the strongest predictors of a student’s long-term achievement, and the District’s continued expansion of free, full-day pre-K will positively impact Chicago and CPS families for generations. CPS offers preschool in all 77 Chicago neighborhoods and has added nearly 10,000 pre-K full-day seats across the city since 2018. That total includes 25 new classrooms within 13 elementary schools for a total of 420 additional available seats for the 2023-24 school year.

The District intentionally expanded pre-K offerings, starting with under-resourced neighborhoods and now finalizing the expansion in more economically-stable neighborhoods. This year’s expansion includes a new Early Learning Branch assigned to Edgebrook Elementary School on the far north side as well as the new Barbara Vick Western Branch and expansion at Clissold Elementary School, both in the Beverly/Morgan Park area.

Enhancing District Curriculum

The District continues to strengthen instructional strategies and practices in core subjects and through continued implementation of the District Skyline curriculum with professional learning for teachers that features flexible scheduling options and combines centralized support from content experts with school-based collaborative inquiry by teacher teams.

This year, the District’s Department of Literacy is launching numerous initiatives to advance student literacy, including the expansion of Skyline English Language Arts curriculum adoption to 60 percent of CPS elementary schools. The District will also develop additional professional learning opportunities to support teachers in continuing to refine their practice in effective curriculum implementation.

The Department of STEM continues to make significant progress on the District’s commitment to strengthen pathways for our students. CPS will work with District partners DePaul University and Verizon to provide professional development for schools and opportunities for our students in work-based programming.

Social and Emotional Health Supports

CPS investments in students’ social-emotional learning and mental health support aim to provide students with equitable access to mental health resources regardless of where they live or go to school.

During the 2023-24 school year, CPS will invest in additional social-emotional learning resources and services and expanded access to community behavioral health partners. The District’s 2023-24 school budget allocates more than $35 million to social and emotional learning curriculum, behavioral health supports for students, and additional social workers and counselors to ensure students have the social, emotional, and mental supports they need to succeed in the classroom.

Preparing for College and Career

CPS has made significant gains in college and career readiness over the past couple decades with the class of 2023 earning more than $2 billion in scholarships, the District’s highest scholarship number to date. Last year’s graduates also earned more college credit than prior classes as well as broke records for the number of earned International Baccalaureate diplomas and the State’s prestigious Seal of Biliteracy.

This year, the District will maintain funding to continue its work to provide students with exposure to various career pathways, through enhanced Career and Technical Education programming and employment/apprenticeship opportunities. In addition, the District will continue to support students with their college readiness efforts through dual credit, dual enrollment, and other early college programs.

At the high school-level, CPS will invest an additional $2 million to expand access to Advanced Placement courses across all schools, specifically increasing access for students and schools where AP enrollment has lagged and focusing on the expansion and implementation of AP Capstone programs. The District will also work to expand model career pathways in partnership with City Colleges of Chicago and industry partners. These pathways allow CPS students to earn a semester of early college credit and participate in work-based learning along a continuum, culminating in internships and/or youth apprenticeships as early as the 10th grade.

Supports for English Learners

CPS educators and staff work with every student to identify support needs regardless of country of origin or language spoken. CPS aims to provide every student with a high-quality and holistic education which includes serving the city’s diverse multicultural students with bilingual services as they enroll in school and throughout the school year.

The District allocated additional funding in the FY24 budget to support more than 5,300 additional English Learners who joined CPS schools last year. Specifically, schools that saw an increase in English Learner enrollment after the 20th day of school in the fall of 2022 will receive additional funding to support those students. CPS has also made significant progress in improving the number of teachers with bilingual and ESL endorsements. This year, CPS will have considerably more bilingual-endorsed teachers and ESL-endorsed teachers – 6,900 – than ever before.

Investing in Diverse Learner Programs

One of the District’s top priority areas is reimagining how CPS can best serve students with diverse learning needs to ensure that all students access positive, inclusive, and rewarding academic and extracurricular experiences.

Since last school year, CPS has added more than 170 special education teachers and more than 600 special education classroom assistants and those numbers continue to grow. Following historic investments in our students over the past two years, the District’s proposed FY 2024 budget provides an unprecedented increase of more than $120 million to our Office of our Diverse Learner Supports and Services (ODLSS). The budget increase aims to bolster all services to students with special needs in the 2023-24 school year. The Chicago Board of Education has supported this investment through the creation of a new 18-member Special Education Advisory Committee that aims to help improve the delivery of services through recommendations to the Board of Education.

  • Additional Programming and Supports for the 2023-24 School Year

    CPS offers a robust offering of sports opportunities to all student-athletes across the District. At the high school level, within the Chicago Public League, students will be able to participate in 10 unique fall sports, culminating in a Chicago Public League Playoff and Championships and subsequent Illinois High School Association State Series Playoffs. Entering its third season, the Chicago Public League, alongside the Chicago Bears, NFL Flag and Nike are proud to partner once again for the High School Girls Flag Football Season with over 60 teams.
  • The District has streamlined and broadened the application policy and process for the Virtual Academy for the 2023-24 school year. Students with a medical condition documented in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 and a doctor referral that indicates virtual learning is the best setting, will be accepted, not only those deemed medically fragile.
  • CPS Tutor Corps offers high-dosage tutoring during the school day in 229 schools with the support of several hundred part-time tutors. High-dosage tutoring is one-on-one tutoring or tutoring in small groups at least three times a week for 30 minutes a session. Tutor Corps engages schools with tutors in both literacy and math, with a specific focus on K-5 literacy, middle school math, and high school algebra.
  • New and expanded opportunities for all students to make an impact on their school, the District, and their communities in collaboration with their schools and the District’s Department of Student Voice and Engagement. This summer, CPS hosted its second annual Student Voice Leadership Summit. The Summit provided students with a space to share their voices, ideas, perspectives and lived experiences to build a more inclusive and responsive school environment.