Chicago Teachers Union claims 70% of Park Manor Elementary School students in COVID quarantine

CPS distributes 150K COVID test kits, says in-school transmission remains low
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools and its teachers union at odds over COVID cases, this time at Park Manor Elementary.

The Chicago Teachers Union claims 70 percent of Park Manor Elementary's students are in quarantine.

CPS data shows the number fluctuating throughout the week, but regardless the district says it's confident about in-person learning, telling students and staff to double down on vaccinations and testing.

RELATED: CDC: Testing students who were exposed to COVID an option over home quarantine

According to the CTU, five staff members and 11 more students there tested positive for the virus this week.

"We're seeing it in places like Park Manor school on Chicago's South Side. Really the refusal to acknowledge the challenges the school is facing," said CTU president Jesse Sharkey.

Teachers and families are calling on the city and district to do more. The quick answer from CPS has been more COVID-19 testing, but teachers say that has been inconsistent.

"I have concerns with our testing," said Taneka Griffin-Lindsey, a Park Manor Elementary teacher. "We need more testing. The result is not consistent. You have some people that are getting results in two days and other people getting results in four days."

That's why 150,000 home testing kits are now heading home with students who live in areas of high transmission. The concern is how those tests will reach students who have already been in quarantine.

"I've been working for CPS for 23 years and this is the first time that I have been scared," said Shaneshia Bailey, school case manager.

All students sent home with a COVID test must take it on December 28 and Families are required to drop the test off on the same day at a FedEx box.

The district says this should make a difference after the holidays, along with more vaccinations and contact tracing.

In a statement, CPS doubled down, saying the fact of the matter is that in-school transmission of the virus in the district remains low.

Private schools in the area are also dealing with outbreaks, with Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day, Francis Parker and the Latin School of Chicago canceling classes Friday.

Full CPS Statement:
"Chicago Public Schools continues its work with our partners at the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to ensure the safety of all students and staff amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"As Chicago struggles through the pandemic surge, so too does CPS. However, we know so much more now about what works than when the first wave began.

"Our pandemic health contingency plan is to double down on proven COVID-19 mitigation strategies: vaccination, testing, contact tracing. And when schools reopen on Jan. 3, all the other tried and true layers of protection will also be in place: universal masking; social distancing; strong hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette; monitored and high indoor air quality; appropriately cleaned and disinfected spaces; and making certain staff and families know that sick people must stay home.

"Mass marketing of health resources and supports (like Medicaid and SNAP enrollment, and vaccination and testing opportunities with partners across the city), frequent and high-quality communications, and other measures to strengthen transparency-- like public dashboards on the CPS website-- are powerful tools for success in schools despite the pandemic.

"This comprehensive approach-- fully alive to the broader "social determinants of health"--and with all elements working together, explains how CPS has maintained safe and sound in-person learning for 330,000 students and nearly 40,000 staff since the August 30th start of the school year.

"Despite the city's surges, and though cases occur among unvaccinated CPS students and staff, the fact of the matter is that in-school transmission of the virus in the district remains low.

Vaccination
"COVID-19 vaccination is readily available in the District through its four Regional Clinics, dozens of Mobile Vaccination Events in schools, 23 School-Based Health Centers (that offer Pfizer vaccine), and temporary Satellite Clinics. Vaccination remains the most effective weapon and protection from the virus, and vaccines are free, accessible, and widely available to all Chicagoans, age five and older regardless of insurance, citizenship status or the ability to pay. Families can find a vaccine location and schedule appointments for anyone age 5 and up by visiting the district's website or vaccines.gov.

COVID-19 Testing
"CPS will continue to grow its massive COVID-9 Screening Test Program. Since the start of the school year, the district has conducted over 245,000 tests. The fact that under 1 percent are positive is reassuring, but the push to urge families to consent to testing will press forward.

"We will also continue to innovate in this space. For example, CPS launched a very small Test-to-Stay pilot in one District elementary school last week. While such an initiative has not yet been implemented widely in a school district of our scale, what we hope to learn in the pilot could become very useful in the future. On any given day in CPS, nearly all students directed to quarantine are elementary students. Vaccination of every eligible person could make that number zero. However, in the meantime, until vaccination uptake is much, much higher, Test-to-Stay could evolve into a measure that might reduce the overall number of students in the district who require quarantine.
Contact Tracing: Ongoing Innovation

"Since March 2020, the CPS Contact Tracing Team (CTT), has handled more than 10,000 self-reported COVID-19 cases. This includes nearly 6600 cases since the start of the current school year on Aug 30, 2021. Contact Tracing is key to preventing and containing in-school COVID-19 transmission, and is thus fundamental to the endeavor of in-person learning in the district.

"There have been dramatic increases in CTT capacity, now comprised of 38 active, investigating Contact Tracers (plus five now in training and poised to take cases after winter break; this brings the total to 43 Tracers); seven CTT Team Leads; one COVID-19 Response Mgr; and one Director. Eleven additional offers for CT positions have been accepted; two offers are pending. We have also redeployed and redirected the work of dozens from the Office of Student Health & Wellness, Family and Community Engagement, as well as others in CPS to assist with many aspects of contact tracing to help meet shifting needs.

"Working in consultation with CDPH, CPS CTT has streamlined many of its processes to build greater efficiencies and speed. Moreover, innovations like the Flip-to-Remote Protocol help school leaders take important decisive public health action (using clearly defined criteria) to more quickly protect students and staff even before full CTT investigations "are complete.
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