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Chicago Public Schools High School Students Return To Classrooms

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It had been more than a year since Chicago Public Schools high school students have walked the hall -- until Monday.

Students and parents at Walter Payton College Prep who spoke with CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot said, while the return to in-person learning brings a lot of happiness, there is also an adjustment.

"Although it's not normal, it feels like I'm back at home, like I am where I was a year ago and that makes me more than ecstatic," said sophomore Harry Dobrow.

"He's been very excited to get back to school, be with his friends. The biggest thing I think we missed over the past year was the socialization with other students, especially at such a developmental age," said Harry's father Steve Dobrow.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson said behavioral health teams are in place to help students who are finding it difficult to return to in-person learning for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We do see far more students expressing concerns around their mental health. We think a good next step is getting them back into school because oftentimes teachers are the first people to see some of those concerns," said Jackson.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations for eligible high school students, there will be a process.

"First convening a group of experts to kind of walk through the science and the data and have our own assurances that the vaccines are safe," said Lightfoot. "We're talking about young people, and we'll obviously have to get their parents involved for approval. But we're excited about the prospects of getting young people vaccinated."

Meantime when it comes to staffing, Jackson says resources have been put in place so staffing shortages aren't an issue, and because of vaccinations and some of the policies put in place, far fewer staff are out on accommodations.

CPS did not immediately have numbers on how many students went back to school, but the most recent figures show for all grades 140,000 students were planning to learn at home and 122,000 at school.

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