2022 Golden Apple Award Finalist - Ms. Laurel Kulig!

As we near the end of Women's History Month, we want to shout out one of our own women leaders in our community! Congratulations to Laurel Kurig! Ms. Kulig is a CICS teacher at our Northtown Academy campus and was recently selected as a finalist for the Golden Apple Award for Excellence.

Chicago International Charter School Celebrates School Quality Improvements

Last week, Chicago Public Schools released school performance results – School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP) – from the 2015-2016 school year. CICS has a lot to celebrate and more work to do. We are proud to announce our third consecutive year of improvement across the network, with six of our campuses rated in the top two performance categories of SQRP. These achievements are the results of the talented and committed teachers, leaders, and operators working tirelessly for our students.

Chicago International Charter School selects seasoned education leader as next chief executive

Chicago International Charter School selects seasoned education leader as next chief executive

Kris Cheung selected for his collaborative leadership style and ability turn challenges into opportunities

October 18, 2021 

Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., (312) 343-2515

CHICAGO – Chicago International Charter School (CICS), a network of 13 public charter schools serving 7,400 students, is excited to announce that Kris Cheung will begin as the organization’s Chief Executive Officer, effective November 1, 2021. Following an extensive national search, Cheung was selected due to his deep experience as a leader in education, his relational leadership style and ability to drive student outcomes while maintaining a well-run organization. 

“Kris is a seasoned leader who we are confident has the experience and capabilities to lead CICS into our next phase,” said Evan Sharp, member of CICS’ Board of Directors and chair of the CEO Search Committee. “What stood out to us about Kris was his ability to ask thoughtful questions and listen intently, surround himself with experts, and galvanize people around a common goal. Our Board is deeply grateful to the entire CICS team for providing stability and continuity for our students, families and staff while we found the right person for the role.”

Cheung comes to CICS with more than a decade of leadership at two of the nation’s highly regarded charter networks: Success Academy in New York and KIPP Texas. As the Chief Operating Officer at Success Academy, he helped the organization grow from seven schools serving 2,400 students to 46 schools serving more than 16,000 students. At KIPP Texas, he led the consolidation of four KIPP regions across Texas, now serving 34,000 students at 59 schools statewide. In both roles, Kris brought stakeholders together across departments and regions, while navigating significant complexity, to create more high-quality opportunities for students. 

“CICS has been an education leader in Chicago for more than 24 years and I’m eager to build upon the amazing work of our students, families and staff in the years to come,” said Cheung. “I know the last 18 months have been challenging for everyone and I’m excited to lead a team that has demonstrated resilience, perseverance and a relentless focus on students in the face of significant obstacles. I look forward to building relationships with everyone who is committed to the success of Chicago’s children.” 

 About Chicago International Charter School

Chicago International Charter School is a vibrant network of diverse Chicago charter schools that enable students to thrive every day, put them on a path to success in college and life, and empower entrepreneurial educators to pursue excellence through innovation. CICS is serving more than 7,400 students at 13 campuses across Chicago. To learn more, visit  www.chicagointl.org.

Press Release_Chicago International Charter School selects seasoned education leader as next chief executive

CICS Alum Gives Back In A Major Way

Rallying around an agenda that supports the advancement of Black and Brown children in his community is what Robert Alexander is all about. Now he’s giving back to the community where it all started for him, as a teacher, at his alma mater, CICS Loomis-Longwood. 

Robert attended CICS Loomis-Longwood starting in the 2nd through the 12th grade. When reflecting on his time as a student here, Robert shares that it was challenging growing up on the East and South sides of Chicago, especially when trying to get to school. Still, he looked forward to entering the doors of Loomis-Longwood and credits his time here for molding him into the person he is today. 

“Having the opportunity to attend this school taught me self-discipline. But they made it a point to show you love and respect - something I will never forget", stated Robert. These same traits that Robert remembers back then, are some of the exact reasons he jumped at the chance to come back to Loomis-Longwood.

While vacationing one summer, Robert was approached by an old friend who was employed with CICS and invited him to work in the security department as a school security guard. Robert eagerly accepted the opportunity and started his transition back to CICS. “My encounter with an old friend was meant to be. At the time I needed an income and this was my way of making that happen. It just made this opportunity even better knowing that I’d be coming back to where it all started for me.”  

Little did Robert know, his start as support staff would blossom into more than he bargained for. As a security guard, he was responsible for keeping students safe, but this position afforded him to connect with the students and build meaningful relationships. At the start of his employment at Longwood, Robert immediately gravitated toward the students and took a genuine interest in their well-being as well as their successes in and out of the classroom. 

“To see the turnaround in students is amazing and it makes me feel good to hear students tell me that I was the reason they came to school and why they wanted to do better. I would see those same students on the honor roll and involved in school activities the next year and was proud to know that I played a part in their success.” 

A New Beginning

After four years of being a security guard, Robert was approached by Chrystal Fields, Managing Director of Student and Family Supports at CICS Loomis-Longwood and Lloyd Bond, to be a paraprofessional.  When she learned of his qualifications and witnessed his ability to build meaningful relationships with the students, she encouraged him to apply for the role. 

Transitioning into the classroom was more than a promotion for Robert, it was also a chance for him to play his part in changing the narrative of what success looks like for Black and Brown students. As a paraprofessional, he loves being able to see the growth of his students. He also loves new challenges. Robert enrolled in the Relay graduate program and it was during this time that he knew he wanted to be more involved in his students' education and started to pursue being a Diverse Learning teacher. 

Robert has been with CICS for several years now and looks forward to continuing serving at Loomis-Longwood. 

“Being at CICS is like being with family. They have such a strong support system and culture. Whenever I need help with anything I know that I can call on anyone to help me and I want to create the same environment for my kids when they come into my classroom.”







CICS Celebrates Its Principals

National Principals Month honors principals for their significant impact on the success and well-being of our nation’s students.

Join us as we celebrate all CICS principals throughout October!

Check out several of the school principals from our Avalon, Basil, Bucktown, Irving Park, Loomis-Longwood, Lloyd Bond, Northtown Academy, Prairie, Ralph Ellison, Washington Park, West Belden and Wrightwood campuses. 

We plan to profile all our principals this week and their journeys to becoming great leaders!  We thank them for all they do!  


www.principalsmonth.org 
www.ChicagoIntl.Org

#ThankAPrincipal #CICSPrincipals #Leaders 

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CICS CEO: CRAIN’s On The Move

Kris Cheung

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earlier this month, Kris Cheung joined CICS as our new Chief Executive Officer.

Kris is a student-centered leader and we are excited for him to be part of the CICS family serving our teachers, staff and familes in providing excellent, innovative and equitable educational experiences to Chicago’s communities.

Check him out at Crain's Chicago ‘On the Move.’

CICS Food Services Profile: Healthy Meals Healthy Students

It is important that CICS students maintain a healthy body and mind during the school year. CICS recognizes that meals contribute to our physical, social and mental well-being. 

Our Food Services team plays an essential role to all our CICS schools. They are an important part of improving the health and well-being of our students.  We would like to share the story of what our food service program does every school day in order to keep students healthy and fed. 

A Change in Meals 

CICS knows that what a child eats plays a role in their level of creativity, engagement and academic performance. Our food program ensures that students and families have nutritious meal options. Due to the pandemic, the last in-school meals were served to CICS students on Friday, March 13.

With only the weekend to plan, CICS began to offer meals for pickup to our students and their families on the following Monday, March 16.  While those first few meals consisted of sandwiches and wraps, CICS quickly realized that families needed items that could be heated at home.

All fourteen CICS school campuses have on-site prep kitchens where food can be prepared and served to students from steam table serving lines, as well as self-serve salad bars. The current curbside pick-up breakfast menu offers shelf stable items along with occasional fresh fruit or juice. Lunch and supper options include ready-to-heat items such as hamburgers, chicken and burritos and there are new items such as chicken legs and other plated entrees being added. Pizza and chicken tenders/nuggets are still a favorite, just as they were when meals were served on campuses. The menus also acknowledge that families may have dietary restrictions so there are always no-meat protein items available. Milk is included with every meal and healthy snacks such as granola bars and raisins are also provided.

Curbside food pickup has been important while students are remote learning. CICS has accommodated most families who drive up to one the campuses; some families walk up to the table if they live close by. Every day, our families have been grateful for their childrens’ meals and for the opportunity to see the food staff, even if they are socially distanced or in their cars. Students are always excited to see  their “lunch lady” from the car.  

The CICS food service staff are rarely recognized for the important role they play in the lives of our students. At one campus, a mother occasionally cooks lunch for the food service staff and brings it to them on Fridays. This is just an example of how close this community is. They have served 500,000 meals since the middle of March. It is their mission, especially during remote learning, to create high quality meals that students want to eat and to get those meals to every family. Many parents realize that, without food service staff, their children would not have the meals they usually receive while in school. It shows how important they are! 

As a school community, our priority is to keep every student fed. Even when school schedules change or holidays come and go, distribution times are adjusted. CICS has also added an additional morning pick-up time to accommodate family schedules.      

CICS Irving Park Educator Awarded Elementary Teacher of the Year!

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools (INCS) announced that Lindy Mandel, middle school teacher and instructional coach at Chicago International Charter School Irving Park, has been named Elementary Teacher of the Year! 

“Charter schools thrive on innovation and adaptability. With everything our community has gone through with the pandemic, we’ve still seen some of the most creative and thoughtful approaches to modern education in years,” explained Andrew Broy, president of INCS. “The 2022 winners of the Charter Excellence Awards embody everything that makes the charter public school community such a force for good. We are so proud of all they have done and will continue to do.”

Mandel has been part of the CICS Irving Park community since 2009 and has served in various roles from teaching assistant to the director of operations to middle school educator and instructional coach. As an innovative practice leader, Mandel led the implementation of the Summit Personalized Learning Platform for CICS Irving Park, and served as a Summit Learning Lead, developing training modules for and introducing the platform to new Distinctive Schools teachers.

“Lindy has been an incredible asset for CICS Irving Park, and Distinctive Schools,” shared Chief Talent Officer, Sami Baugh, “her leadership and passion for education is exactly what her students, families, and colleagues respond to – she makes a lasting impact on all she encounters, and we are incredibly grateful for her continued commitment to her students and Distinctive Schools.”

Mandel was nominated for the award by Peggy Diaz, CICS Irving Park Bilingual educator and parent, who has taught under Mandel’s mentorship with Distinctive Schools. On November 30, 2022, CICS Irving Park students and staff gathered in the school gymnasium for their weekly community meeting, the time the school takes to connect as a community, discuss school events, and recognize students of the week. At the top of the assembly, Diaz stepped up to the microphone and spoke about her nomination.

“It is the unquantifiable that sets her apart. It is the kind and patient words. It is the determined spirit to make sure everyone learns, and the wholehearted investment to understand the feelings and situations of others,” said Diaz. She continued, “How do you measure a year in a teacher’s life? How about love? Love is exactly what makes this teacher [Mandel] excellent.”

Mandel was presented with the award along with a check for $10,000, surrounded by her students, peers, and family members, and celebrated during the 2022 INCS Charter School Excellence Awards Reception on Monday, December 5, 2022 at the City View Lofts. CICS is incredibly proud of Mandel’s success as an educator, colleague, and leader. This year, INCS received over 120 nominations for leaders, teachers, parents and students from across Illinois’ charter sector, which spans 137 schools throughout the state. As with years past, 2022’s nominations were fiercely competitive.

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About Chicago International Charter School 

Chicago International Charter School is a vibrant network of diverse Chicago charter schools that enable students to thrive every day, put them on a path to success in college and life, and empower entrepreneurial educators to pursue excellence through innovation. CICS is serving more than 7,400 students at 13 campuses across Chicago. To learn more, visit  www.chicagointl.org.

About INCS

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools advocates for the improvement of public education by leveraging the charter school model as a catalyst to transform lives and communities. As the voice of Illinois charter schools, INCS engages a diverse coalition of policymakers, school leaders, parents, and community members to create systemic change and secure high-quality schools for underserved communities.

CICS Parent Shares Her Appreciation for the Unique & Nurturing Environment at CICS West Belden

“My child’s superpower is being incredibly funny, caring, and imaginative and CICS West Belden allows him to be himself.” - Sara Miranda

CICS West Belden parent Sara Miranda has been a part of the CICS community for four years. When she moved to Chicago’s Belmont-Cragin area, she was looking for a neighborhood school. It was important to her that her son attends a school that had a good reputation, a strong academic program, and small class sizes. When she did her research and found CICS West Belden, it checked all of her wishes and more! She then made the decision to enroll her son at CICS West Belden. The following story is about Sara and her son’s journey to West Belden! 

Since her son enrolled at West Belden, Sara has made it a point to not only join the school’s community but play an active role in it.  She is currently a part of the Parent Teacher League and every year makes it a point to remain engaged with her son’s teachers and staff. Sara shares that “I do my best to volunteer whether it be my time or items for various events.” When she speaks about her child’s education at West Belden, she noted, “My child’s superpower is being incredibly funny, caring, and imaginative. West Belden has nurtured his imaginative play and allowed him to come to school in elaborate costumes and get into character roles without making him feel embarrassed or ashamed.” 

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Being a CICS parent is rewarding because it affords her and her family the opportunity to play an active role in her son’s education and she enjoys the fact that she is able to collaborate with teachers and staff in providing a home-away-from-home environment for her kids. 

Sara’s experience at CICS West Belden has been nothing but positive. She also notes that the school faces common challenges since the start of the pandemic that most schools have encountered, but the school prioritizes working together as a team. She admires Principal Colleen Padgett for her leadership, innovation, and energy. The teachers and staff also have open lines of communication with the families to ensure the child's education and well-being is always top priority. 

This community laughs together, shares ideas, and supports their community, school, and families. Over the last couple of years, through the pandemic, they saw this come to be as the community struggled to navigate such uncertain times in our present history. Nevertheless, in trues West Belden fashion, they persevered with joy and partnership and wish to share this with more students and families. 

West Belden is a unique campus that also offers unique care for its scholars. When asked the question, “Why should families choose CICS?”, Sara responded: “It’s simple, really. If families are looking for a small, community school that focuses on the student, and their well-being, nurtures creativity and individuality, and supports culture, diversity, and growth- well then, West Belden is the best kept secret.”

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My name is Sara Miranda and I am a full-time nurse with a Doctor of Nursing Practice.  I have been married to my high school sweetheart for 13 years and we share two wonderful boys together.  Our family is very close and our favorite thing to do is spend time together exploring museums, traveling, dining out, and spending time with extended family.  We hope to do more traveling abroad and visit some amazing sights as we resurface from the pandemic.

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About Chicago International Charter School 

Chicago International Charter School is a vibrant network of diverse Chicago charter schools that enable students to thrive every day, put them on a path to success in college and life, and empower entrepreneurial educators to pursue excellence through innovation. CICS is serving more than 7,400 students at 13 campuses across Chicago. To learn more, visit  www.chicagointl.org.

CICS Wrightwood Educator and Students Making A Difference

CICS Wrightwood teacher Ms. Jazmine Cooper and her students are making strides during Halloween and Dia De Los Muertos once again! 
 
Ms. Cooper and her students recently performed Michael Jackson's "Thriller" at the  Arts in the Dark Parade in downtown Chicago on State Street. She and her students were recently on Chicago's Very Own WGN TV performing the same dance. 
 
Her hard work and dedication to the arts have even received national attention from the Ellen show.  Ms. Cooper was also honored as 2022 The Chicago Defender Woman of Excellence.
 
Watch Ms. Cooper and her students dancing into the hearts of all by watching herehere and here!
 
 CICS is always proud of leader and educator, Ms. Jazmine Cooper! Congrats on making CICS proud once again! 
 
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CICS Wrightwood Teacher Shines on the Ellen DeGeneres Show

CICS wants to congratulate Wrightwood Fitness teacher, Ms. Jazmine Cooper, for bringing her love of dance to our students! 
 
Ms. Cooper was on the Ellen show where she spoke about impacting the lives of elementary school kids through dance. She talked about how powerful her classes have become and the positive impact dance has had on the students.
 
CICS Wrightwood Teacher
 
We want to thank Ms. Cooper and CICS Wrightwood for all their hard work and dedication! A big thanks to the Ellen DeGeneres Show for recognizing Ms. Cooper's passion for dance and education!
 
Check out her interview on the Ellen show: https://www.ellentube.com/.../phenomenal-teacher...

Closing All CICS Schools: March 16 through March 30

March 13, 2020

Dear CICS Families, 

We have appreciated your support, feedback and patience over the last two weeks as we have worked together to navigate the uncertainty and disruption caused by COVID-19. In alignment with Governor Pritzker’s mandate to close all Illinois schools and under the guidance of public health officials, CICS will close all of our schools beginning on March 16 through at least March 30, with the possibility of a longer closure, depending on the circumstances at the end of the month. 

Please know that this is not a decision that we have taken lightly, but one that we have made to put the health and well-being of our students, families, staff and communities at the forefront. We understand that the next two weeks, and possibly longer, will be difficult and, in partnership with Distinctive Schools, Civitas Education Partners and ReGeneration Schools, CICS plans to support our students and families in every way that we can. We recognize the incredible burden this puts on our families, and that, while it helps us mitigate the spread of the virus, it creates other significant challenges. Thank you for understanding that this decision was made to support the well-being of our community. 

CICS and our SMO partners are committed to supporting our students’ continued learning throughout the closure. On Monday, school leadership teams and office staff will be at each CICS campus to distribute virtual learning materials to families that did not receive them on Friday. Individual campuses will communicate instructions for the distribution of these materials to their families no later than Sunday at noon. We are actively working with CPS and our food service provider to determine the method for the distribution of meals for our students throughout the closure. Where possible, we sent students home today with breakfast items for Monday morning in case of a potential closure. We are also working with CPS to create a list of community supports for child care, as we know this closure creates a burden on our families. We will follow up no later than the end of day on Monday with more information about these resources. 

Throughout the closure, we will communicate with our parents and guardians via email on a weekly basis, or more frequently as needed and we will share updates via the CICS website, www.chicagointl.org

For the most reliable and up-to-date information, please visit www.chicago.gov/coronavirus or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the CDPH Coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You may also reach out to the CICS COVID-19 Response Team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or CICS Main Office by phone at 312-651-5000.  

Please know that our CICS team is here to provide resources and support to you and your child throughout this challenging situation. During times like these, we commit to coming together to take care of every member of the CICS community.

Warmly, 

Elizabeth

 

Elizabeth Shaw

CEO 

Chicago International Charter School

 

Closing All CICS Schools: March 16 through March 30_pdf

Closing All CICS Schools: March 16 through March 30_Spanish_pdf

Debunking Charter School Myths & Celebrating the Longest Standing Charter in Illinois - Chicago International Charter School

Nearly 40 years ago, the concept of charter schools was first introduced to encourage new and innovative ways of educating young people. Since then, charters have grown into a national movement serving 3.7 million students in nearly 8,000 schools in 46 states, plus D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. While public charter schools have seen tremendous growth, success, and public support since their founding, many misconceptions exist about charter schools.

Whether you are curious about public charters or a member of the CICS family, we have put this page to share the facts behind some of the common misconceptions.

 

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One thing is abundantly clear: public charter schools have revolutionized education by providing equitable opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds. Through innovative educational models and personalized approaches, public charter schools break down barriers to learning, ensuring that every child, regardless of their zip code or socioeconomic status, has access to a quality education. By tailoring instruction to individual needs and fostering a culture of inclusivity, charter schools create environments where students can thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

In addition to promoting academic success, public charter schools empower families to actively engage in their children's education by offering them the freedom to choose the educational environment that best suits their needs and aspirations. This freedom of choice not only enhances the educational experience, but also strengthens the bond between families, schools, and communities. As families become active partners in the educational process, they play a crucial role in shaping their children's educational journey and advocating for their success. Therefore, advocating for policies that support educational diversity and innovation is essential to ensure that charter schools continue to thrive and provide transformative educational experiences for all students.

 

About Chicago Charter International Charter School (CICS)

Founded in 1997, Chicago International Charter School (CICS) is the longest-standing charter school in Chicago, pioneering innovative education since its inception. Today, CICS operates a diverse portfolio of 13 tuition-free charter schools in partnership with Civitas Education Partners, Distinctive Schools, and ReGeneration Schools. This collaborative model ensures tailored, high-quality education for students. A recent study from Stanford University found CICS Avalon, CICS Basil, and CICS Washington Park - all managed by ReGeneration Schools - to be the #1 gap-busting schools in Illinois given their elimination of learning disparities. In 2023, CICS boasted graduation rates surpassing CPS averages, with graduates receiving $94 million in scholarships. Nearly 80% of CICS campuses outpaced Illinois' growth averages, while 60% of its principals identify as Black, reflecting a commitment to diversity and excellence.

Educator Spotlight: Kelly Pollack

I have been a teacher at West Belden for 17 years.  For most of my time here, I have taught 1st grade (thirteen years), 2nd grade (two years), and now I am in my second year of co-teaching and mentoring a  3rd  / 4th grade team.

Family Update: CICS Response to COVID-19

March 13, 2020

Dear CICS Families: 

I want to thank each of you for your attention to the developing situation regarding COVID-19, or coronavirus, in Chicago and nationally. As of now, we are not aware of any confirmed cases of or concerning exposure to COVID-19 at any of our campuses. I want to assure you that CICS is closely monitoring the situation and working with CPS and local public health officials to offer guidance to our staff, students and families. As always, the health and safety of our students and teammates are our highest priorities.  

Over the last week, CICS has put together a COVID-19 Response Team to stay up-to-date on the latest local developments and recommendations from CPS, the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control, as well as to field questions from our staff and families and develop and communicate guidance as CICS responds to the evolving COVID-19 situation. While it is our hope that our schools will remain open and operating on their regular schedules in the weeks and months ahead, we are also working on contingency plans for remote learning and for access to the school food program in the event of a prolonged closure. Please complete this two-minute survey so that we can properly prepare for support should we need to close one or more campuses. 

We’re also taking reasonable precautions to limit the exposure to and prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our schools and the surrounding communities. While we are still permitting local travel within the Chicago city limits, we have made the difficult decision to cancel or postpone all staff and student non-local domestic and international travel on behalf of CICS from now through April 10, 2020, the last day of Spring Break. This includes CICS-sponsored and coordinated student spring break trips and college tours. We recognize how disappointing this decision may be, especially for trips that our students have been anticipating for some time, but this month-long pause will allow us to focus on limiting potential exposure and managing risks, while we monitor the latest developments. 

We will also be canceling or postponing student gatherings and events outside of the regular school day. After-school programs will continue at our campuses as scheduled. Cancelled or postponed events may include concerts, parent events and dances, and your school director will follow up with more details about plans for scheduled events. 

Please remember to continue practicing reasonable precautionary measuresto keep yourself healthy and prevent the spread of the virus, which include regularly disinfecting frequently touched objects, frequently washing your hands, avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and staying home if you are feeling ill or exhibiting symptoms such as fever, coughing and/or shortness of breath. If you are known to have come into contact with someone who has COVID-19, or if you have any other concerns of exposure in general or at the campus, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and your school director immediately. 

For the most reliable and up-to-date information, please visit www.chicago.gov/coronavirus or www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the CDPH Coronavirus hotline at 312-746-4835 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You may also reach out to the CICS’ COVID-19 response team line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or CICS Main Office by phone at 312-651-5000.  

While the current situation is concerning, there is quite a bit that we can do to limit exposure to and prevent the spread of the virus. I assure you that our team is continuing to follow the latest developments and we will continue to update our families as the situation evolves. Thank you for your continued trust in CICS and for allowing us to continue to be a resource for you and your family. 

 

Warmly, 

Elizabeth Shaw

CEO 

Chicago International Charter Schools

 

FAMILY UPDATE: CICS RESPONSE TO COVID-19

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