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Transparency, Accountability and Action for Lab's U High

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January 26, 2021

Dear President Zimmer, Provost Lee, Vice-Provost Abebe, Mr. Magill, Mr. Beekmeyer and Mr. Kistenbroker,

The undersigned are parents of current U-High students. We write to advocate that you open a hybrid in-person program for U-High as soon as possible. This request is in line with recommendations from epidemiologists and national pediatric advisory groups. There are physical and psychological harms associated with the current model of remote learning. We see depression, lack of motivation, weight gain, sleep disturbances, anxiety, and self-harming behaviors unfolding for many of our children. These effects worsen as we approach nearly a year without in-person school.

COVID-19 cases in Illinois, Chicago and the University of Chicago hospital are declining. Bars, restaurants and bowling alleys are open. Catholic schools and many other private schools are open. Many public suburban high schools like Stevenson High School have returned to in-person learning in hybrid form using COVID-19 rapid testing. Yet there is still no published plan to bring U-High students back to in-person classes. We simply must do more to get our students back in school. It is critical that we as a community try to return our students to school. It is time to try new approaches.

The coronavirus is not going away. It will still be circulating in Fall 2021 and for years to come. We must accept this new normal and make a plan to get the high school students back in school now. This plan is predicated on the knowledge that our Lab teachers are in the next priority group for vaccination with a vaccine that has 95% efficacy. This makes it possible to plan for a late winter/early spring 2021 return to in-person instruction.

As parents, we need greater transparency, accountability and communication regarding Lab’s plans for our children’s education:

  • We want the metrics for a return to U-High spelled out.
  • We want to hear directly from the University officials who are making decisions about Lab, preferably in a Town Hall forum where parents can ask questions.
  • We want weekly communication from the Lab school leaders about progress towards the return to in-person school.
  • We expect creativity and action from the leadership of the Lab School and the University to get our U-High students back to school in person by the end of spring break (March 29, 2021).

We recognize that hybrid learning is not a perfect solution, but we cannot allow the perfect to become the enemy of the good in our collective effort to return students to in-person learning. The effect on our students' lives and psychological well-being must be recognized and we must think creatively and take action to return them to in-person school.

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