CPS COVID testing plan criticized as failure after only 2.5% of students opt in to weekly tests

CPS COVID Dashboard shows fewer than 3K students, staff tested since beginning of school year

Craig Wall Image
Thursday, September 16, 2021
CPS COVID testing plan criticized as 'colossal failure'
Chicago Public Schools is struggling to implement its weekly COVID testing plan, leaving parents frustrated and fearful.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A key component in Chicago Public Schools' plan for safely reopening schools is under fire.

The CPS reopening plan was supposed to offer weekly COVID testing to students and staff, but a report from CPS shows they are struggling greatly to make that happen, leaving parents frustrated and fearful.

Chicago Public School students are finishing up their third week of classes... but the safety measures that were supposed to be in place to offer weekly testing for students and staff, is not working the way it was planned.

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"It's been a colossal failure and it's so frustrating is they had the entire summer to set this up," CPS parent Jessica Olson said. "They had the entire summer to do outreach to people, outreach to community groups. They just didn't bother to do it."

Olson is particularly frustrated because her daughter, a sophomore at Whitney Young High School, was just notified a classmate tested positive for COVID.

According to the CPS Dashboard, the district has tested 2,679 students and staff members, with 406 positive cases, since the school year began.

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But the Chicago Teachers Union said part of the problem is that instead of using a system where students were tested automatically unless they opted out, CPS required parents to opt in for their kids to take part in testing. As a result, only 8,600, or 2.5 % of students, have signed up.

"Our frustration right now with COVID-19 testing in the schools is an extremely high level," CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. "We've had the board basically, tacitly admit that plan which they made initially was completely inadequate."

"Because this is a medical procedure, it is better for folks to opt into the process," said Dr. Maurice Swinney, CPS Interim Chief Education Officer.

CPS said part of the testing delay was getting the required background checks on the vendors before they can go into schools.

"My heart goes out to families who feel the frustration, definitely not our intention," Swinney said. "But I don't want to scale down the district's background check process because these testers will be going from school to school to test."

For more information about COVID cases in CPS, visit https://www.cps.edu/services-and-supports/health-and-wellness/covid-19-readiness-data/.