CPS students head back to class Tuesday

- Summer break comes to an end Tuesday morning for 360-thousand Chicago public school students.

On Monday, families across the city got ready for a school year filled with promise and a little bit of peril. South Sider Kendra Snow helped her three school-age children organize and pack their school supplies with the start of a new school year just hours away.

"We just going here, packing book bags and going to sleep early,” Snow said.

Yet, this school year opens with some uncertainty. Teachers have been working without a contract for more than a year and are considering a strike in October.

"Well all I can say is we're at the table every day. We have a very generous proposal on the table for the teachers union and I'm hopeful they will accept it, particularly knowing the difficult finances of the district,” said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.

Despite those difficult finances, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Monday toured the brand new annex that will open Tuesday at Walter Payton College Prep High School, which is one of the most popular and desirable selective enrollment schools in the city.

The annex will allow Payton to boost its enrollment by over 400 students.

"No longer when applying at Payton will it be that some kids get in because they're academically qualified and some get rejected because they're academically qualified. There'll be enough seats for all those kids,” Emanuel said.

And new numbers released Monday by CPS shows the graduation rate continues to climb to a record 73.5-percent, which is up 17 points over what it was five years ago.

"Obviously our goal is to get as many students graduated as possible. I think we're closing in on the national average,” said CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson.

And while undoubtedly many students are disappointed summer has come to an end, Payton sophomore Claire Atkerson says she's looking forward to Tuesday morning.

"I'm really excited. I think I have a good set of classes this year. I'm really looking forward to the new school year,” Atkerson said.

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