Our Chicago: Keeping children COVID-19 safe as they head back to school

CPS starts school Aug. 30

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Sunday, August 22, 2021
Our Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public School students return to the classroom next Monday.

It is the first time they are back in class before Labor Day in a decade.

The Delta variant is also surging across the country, and COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Chicago.

CPS is requiring all students and staff to wear masks inside schools this semester regardless of vaccination and all CPS employees must be vaccinated.

WATCH: Our Chicago Part 1

CPS said it is taking extra steps to keep kids safe against COVID-19.

Dr. José Torres is the interim CEO of the Chicago Public Schools said all students and staff will also have the opportunity to get tested. The district is also taking extra steps to make sure kids are safe on their first day.

"We will have strong ventilation materials, three feet of distance wherever possible and regarding meals, they'll have the opportunity to either grab and go or be at three feet distance in the cafeteria eating," said Torres.

Despite Chicago surpassing the daily COVID-19 case threshold of 400, Torres said the district and the Chicago Department of Public Health believe the best place and safest place for students to be is at school for in person instruction.

"We have all the mitigation factors I think that will keep everyone safe. We've proven that with these mitigation factors students can be in schools last year we had students in school in the spring," said Torres.

WATCH: Our Chicago Part 2

Children fall into the unvacccinated category across the country, said Dr. Mark Butterly, Advocate Children's Hospital.

With hospitalizations and cases rising in children across the country, doctors say they best way to help keep your kids safe is to get vaccinated.

"The primary thing that we can do both as parents, care givers teachers, coaches is to vaccinate ourselves against covid-19," said Dr. Mark Butterly, Vice Chair, Dept. of Pediatrics at Children's Hospital in Oak Lawn. "This will create essentially a bubble, a barrier to those children who are not of age that can't be vaccinated at this point to insulate them from potentially contracting the disease."

According to Dr. Butterly, in-person learning can be safe but it all depends on community outbreaks.

"The higher our immunity and ultimately vaccination rates are, the more likely we will be able to protect our children in schools," said Butterly.

CPS key information about school year

  • Resources for Parents: For information on registration, vaccines, health and safety protocols, and other resources parents should visit cps.edu/b2s
  • School will begin Monday, August 30: This is a shift from prior years, where we have started school after the labor day holiday.
  • Full In-Person Learning Five Days A Week: For the first time in approximately 18 months, all students will be learning in-person, full-time, five days a week. Sports and after school programs will be offered. Students will be able to learn with their peers and see their teachers in-person. Unlike last school year, students will not have a virtual option except for those who are our most medically vulnerable.
  • In addition to full-time learning being important to students' academic and social-emotional well-being, the state of Illinois has mandated that all districts provide in-person learning.
  • CPS Health & Safety Protocols

  • Universal Masking: All students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors at all times, regardless of vaccination status, except for when eating or drinking. Students will be allowed to remove their masks for recess and other activities outdoors. CPS announced this before CDC backtracked on their guidelines and before the Governor announced it for the State.
  • Vaccine Requirements for Staff: CPS is now requiring employees to be fully vaccinated. Employees may request an exemption from this requirement if they have documentation showing a medical reason or a sincerely held religious belief that prohibits vaccination. Employees with an approved exemption will be required to submit to weekly Covid-19 tests.
  • Screening Testing: At current levels of transmission, the district is committed to offering weekly COVID-19 testing to 100 percent of students and staff who provide written consent to monitor and measure COVID-19 prevalence in our schools.
  • Student Athletes: Student athletes in grades 5-12 will be required to either submit proof of their COVID-19 vaccination (if they are eligible) or participate in weekly COVID-19 testing during their sports season.
  • Continued Policies from last year:

  • Additional Custodians: To ensure that comprehensive cleaning protocols are being completed every day, CPS will maintain the 400 additional custodial positions that were added last school year.
  • Sanitizer and Soap: CPS will continue to place hand sanitizer dispensers in all high-traffic areas and soap dispensers to support regular hand washing and sanitizing.
  • Disinfectant Wipes: EPA-approved disinfectant wipes will be available for classrooms, offices, and other high-touch areas.
  • Hospital-Grade Disinfectant Sprayers: Every CPS school now has a hospital-grade mister spray unit that evenly applies EPA-approved disinfectant.
  • Sneeze Guards and Signage: All schools will continue to have sneeze guards and other physical barriers in place to protect staff when visitors arrive, and posted signage throughout school facilities to emphasize health and safety policies and procedures.
  • Rigorous air quality and ventilation standards: To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, every classroom will have a HEPA air purifier that will remove 99.99% of airborne mold, bacteria, and viruses, reducing the risk of indoor transmission of viruses and bacteria. The district is also in the process of re-assessing the ventilation in every classroom to determine if new mitigation is needed before students and staff return to classrooms. We will update school readiness reports and share them with families once they are available.