CPS CEO urges students at schools with low vaccination rates to keep masks on

CHICAGO (WLS) -- As masks become optional at all Chicago Public Schools next week, teachers at McKay Elementary in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood hope their students continue to wear them.

"We teachers are going to have ours on because we are concerned about at this school and all CPS schools," 3rd grade teacher Moselean Parker said.

According to CPS data, only 17.7% of students at McKay are fully vaccinated. The district's decision to go mask optional was partly based on student vaccination rates.

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Overall, 49% of age eligible CPS students are fully vaccinated. But that number is driven up by schools, many on the North Side, with high rates. Northside College Prep being the highest at 89%, and the lowest is Penn Elementary on the West Side at 5%.

"The city has done a terrible job of engaging all communities in an equitable manner to make sure that they have education," CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said.

Teachers at McKay say CPS lacked a plan to educate parents about the vaccine, leaving the job to them.

"We call on our own phones, we encourage our parents," Parker said. "But our parents say, we don't have a voice, we're not sure about the vaccination. They need to be educated, we can only do so much when we get out of the schools."

Vaccination rates remain low in several South and West side schools. Over a third (37%) of schools have fewer than 25% of their students fully vaccinated, and only 10% of schools have 70% of their students fully vaccinated.

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CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said the district plans to double down on getting more students vaccinated and will reverse course on masks if need be.

"If we see conditions change, we will adjust and we will make sure that safety is a priority," Martinez said.

Martinez is encouraging students at schools with low vaccination rates, like McKay, to continue wearing masks. In the meantime, teachers hope an unfair labor grievance filed this week will possibly delay the decision.
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