Officials call on Lightfoot and CPS to implement new COVID security policies
In a petition citing concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, 22 aldermen and other state lawmakers called on Mayor Lori Lightfoot and Chicago public school leaders to reconsider plans to reopen schools this month.
“I think the bottom line is that, because we don’t have a vaccine available for children under 12 at this point, parents really want to understand in layman’s terms what the safety protocols are in place,” said Senator Cristina Pacione-Zayas. , who co-wrote the petition with Ald. Maria Hadden (49th).
Described in the petition, aldermen including Anthony Beale (9th), Stephanie Coleman (16th) and Jeanette Taylor (20th) demand that CPA allow teachers to be equal partners in planning the reopening, recognize the trauma suffered by students in the past 18 months and maintain more than 3 feet of social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing protocols.
Classes begin in person on August 30 and, according to the CPS website, all students will be required to take a daily online health exam before entering a school. Those who are unsuccessful will be asked to stay home and quarantine themselves for 14 days.
Meanwhile, testing throughout the school year will fall into three categories: testing for those with symptoms; quarantine tests for people in close contact with someone positive for COVID; and optional surveillance tests twice a month for asymptomatic people.
But Pacione-Zayas, who has two children at CPS, said additional steps needed to be taken to facilitate a safe return to school – starting with a hybrid option.
“If we know the majority of our students didn’t come back in April, when we made it possible, why are we going strong next week? she said.
Pacione-Zayas added that the increase in the number of children testing positive and hospitalized for COVID-19 is worrying, and his own voters have expressed concern about firing their students.
The petition offers a solution to pair students who want a virtual experience with educators who may not be able to teach in person for medical reasons.
The petition also calls for the allocation of funds for clinicians, special education teachers and support staff, as well as the possibility of home visiting programs through partnerships with community organizations, social service agencies and the school staff.
Pacione-Zayas said she had not received a response from the mayor’s office or the PSC.
Cheyanne M. Daniels is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for America, a non-profit journalism program that aims to strengthen newspaper coverage in communities on the south and west sides.