'I left in tears': Parents express concerns over COVID safety plan despite CPS vaccine mandate

CPS holds ribbon cut at new Hancock High School ahead of new school year
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago Public Schools is set to return to full-time in-person learning with limited exceptions on Monday.

Ahead of the start of a new school year, some parents are expressing questions and concerns over the handling of COVID safety procedures.

As kids enjoy their last days of summer, CPS parents are worried their schools may not be ready for a safe return on Monday.

"We don't have that certainty," said CPS parent, Monica Espinoza. "We are just sending our kids to school, like would I send a soldier to war without a gun?"

"There are a lot of unanswered questions about CPS and we would love those answers," added fellow CPS parent, Joseph Williams.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot addresses some of those concerns Friday, while ensuring that this school year will be a safe one.

Among some of the safety procedures will be daily health screenings, as well as a COVID vaccine mandate for its employees, and an indoor mask requirement for all.

RELATED: Chicago Public Schools to require COVID-19 vaccine for all employees

However, some parents still have questions about the testing.

While CPS is promising weekly testing for students, parents said they have not received any information about when it begins or how it will be conducted in schools.

"I believe we have provided a lot of information, but if parents don't have it, we need to do a better job of communicating," the mayor said.

Lightfoot encouraged parents to ask their principals, but parent Bridget Murphy said her school administrators said they do not have any information about the testing program either.

"So, we are led to believe there will not be a testing plan in place for next week," Murphy said.

But with the school year just days away, CPS is still bargaining with the teachers union on a COVID safety plan.

RELATED: Chicago Public Schools teachers return to classrooms as CTU calls for more COVID protections

"We know based on everything that we learned from last school year and over the course of the summer that we can be open, and open safely," Lightfoot said. "We have a body of evidence demonstrating just that from our reopening last year, and it is critically important that we do remain open, not only for our students' educational needs, but for their social and emotional needs as well."

The Chicago Teachers Union called bargaining with the district on a COVID safety plan frustrating, and even offensive, saying CPS is stripping some safety protocols that were in place last winter and spring, like going from 6 feet of social distancing to 3 feet.

"What I also would encourage is to go through the school and experience various mitigations," Lightfoot said.

That is exactly what Murphy did when she visited her child's 3rd grade classroom.

"I left in tears" Murphy said. "There are 29 students in the classroom, it's not a big room, the desks are tight."

Parents, especially those affected by COVID, are asking CPS for more transparency about their safety plan.

RELATED: Chicago School Board unveils CPS COVID safety plan days ahead of school start

"Me and my family contracted COVID last year and after contracting COVID, we realize the affect it had on our family," Williams added.

There are also CPS parents advocating for a remote learning option.

Despite their concerns, parents have every intention of sending their kids to school on Monday and the CTU, who has yet to come up with an agreement on safety protocols with CPS, is sending their teachers to work.

CPS opens John Hancock College Preparatory High School



Some Chicago Public School students are getting ready to head back to class in a brand new high school building Monday.

City and school leaders were on-hand for a ribbon cutting Friday morning.

John Hancock College Preparatory High School students will start the school year on Monday in the new building.

CPS is calling it a state-of-the-art facility.

RELATED: Chicago Public Schools are safe for students amid COVID surge, city's top doctor says

The mayor and CPS leadership got a tour of the new and improved selective-enrollment high school Friday. The tour was followed by a ribbon cutting on the city's Southwest Side.

Located in the 5400-block of West 64th Place, the school replaces the previous Hancock High School, and includes a black box theater, STEM labs, 28 standard classrooms and rooms for extracurricular activities.

Hancock will welcome more than 1,000 students next week.

The city hopes the school demonstrates its investment on the Southwest Side.
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