Masks required in Abakanowicz Research Center; optional for rest of Museum MORE

A New Year in a New Way

This year, the first day of class for Chicago Public Schools students looks a little different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. No bus rides, no playgrounds, no lunchrooms. Two-dimensional faces on screens or if you’re seeing people in person, then it’s six feet apart and with a mask on. Despite how this year looks, we hope students enjoy getting to know their teachers, seeing old friends, and making new ones. We also hope that they realize the historic significance of this time and that one day, they will be able to pass on their stories from 2020 to the next generation.

Chicago Public Schools have weathered changes from the strategies of school superintendents and city politicians, to the socioeconomic effects of wars, financial crises, and US Supreme Court decisions. Beginning with modest school buildings in the 1830s, Chicago’s schools have performed an increasing variety of functions, from providing literacy to monitoring health and physical development, helping immigrants adapt to life in the city, and addressing, while sometimes exacerbating, problems of racial, social, and economic inequality. Education has meant not only reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also vocational education and for some preparation for citizenship. This story of constancy and change has been fraught with conflict, as various groups have battled for control of education. Private and suburban schools have offered alternatives to public education, eventually creating a variegated institutional patchwork that mirrored the region’s diverse, but often racially segregated, population.

Learn more about the history of Chicago’s educational institutions in our Encyclopedia of Chicago entry. Learn more.

All images above are of students at Franz Peter Schubert Elementary School, 2727 North Long Avenue in the Belmont Cragin community area, Chicago, September 6, 1967. Chicago Sun-Times collection, Chicago History Museum © Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. From left: ST-15002992-0002, ST-15002992-0004, ST-15002992-0011, ST-15002992-0007.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago is no mere collection of fun facts. It is a work of stunning scholarly achievement.” — Tom McNamee, Chicago Sun-Times 

Published by the University of Chicago Press, The Encyclopedia of Chicago is the result of a ten-year collaboration between the Newberry Library and the Chicago History Museum. This project brought together hundreds of historians, journalists, and experts on everything from airlines to Zoroastrians to explore all aspects of the rich world of Chicago and its surrounding metropolitan area. Read the Encyclopedia.

Chicago History Museum Sharing Chicago Stories