CHICAGO (WLS) -- Less than two weeks before Chicago Public Schools students return to in-person learning, the city's top doctor says it's safe to go back to class.
CPS is set to start the school year on Monday, August 30. The city's school and health leaders are reminding parents about the new rules that have been put in place to keep students safe.
"Our highest priority is the safety of students, teachers, staff and everyone in the community," said interim CPS CEO Dr. Jose Torres.
Torres spoke with Dr. Allison Arwady to reassure parents that schools will be safe for kids when classes start August 30, despite continuing increases in the number of COVID cases. Arwady used her weekly Facebook update to focus on issues surrounding the return to schools.
"I feel unbelievably strongly that it is absolutely the right thing to have kids back in school," Arwady said.
Last week, CPS announced that it will require all employees to get fully vaccinated by mid-October, and those who don't will be ineligible to work and won't be paid until they get vaccinated.
Torres said there will be no such requirement for students, except for those involved in athletics or extracurricular activities, who will need to get a vaccine.
Students who are vaccinated and test positive will not be quarantined if they are asymptomatic.
CPS required masking early on and put other mitigation efforts in place, like upgrading the ventilation system. There will also be three feet of social distancing whenever possible indoors.
Both Torres and Arwady said it is safe for parents to send kids back not just for education, but to fill a social and emotional void.
"What's different this year compared to last year is there is no virtual option," Torres said. "All the students are gonna be with their peers, learning together."
CPS will offer a virtual academy for a limited number of students who qualify as medically fragile with documented health conditions.