Parents and teachers are expressing their concerns over the handling of COVID-19 cases within Chicago Public Schools after the parents of two children at Jensen Elementary are believed to have died of complications related to the virus.
According to officials, there have been eight reported COVID cases at the school, and more than 170 students are in quarantine.
Now, after the death of one parent, 44-year-old Shenitha Curry, parents are concerned that safety measures in place are not working well enough, and some family members say that CPS did not do enough contact tracing after COVID was discovered at the school.
Jasmya Johnson, Curry’s sister, believes that Curry contracted the virus from her daughter, who attends the school. According to WBEZ, Curry and her three children all contracted the virus.
“If the protocol was in place, she would still be alive,” Johnson said. “My niece brought it home. They sent my sister an email saying someone in school had COVID, so they had to quarantine her class.”
In her last post on Facebook, Curry wrote about getting a text from CPS saying that contact tracing had been completed at the school, but she says she never talked to contact tracers.
A few days later, on Sept. 23, Curry passed away due to complications from COVID.
Johnson says that Curry’s three children still have plenty of questions about what happened.
“I’m constantly saying (to them) ‘it’s not your fault. It’s not your fault,’” she said.
In a statement, CPS says that the Chicago Department of Public Health is reviewing the situation.
"CDPH continues to review the situation but at this time, and based on the information available including timing of symptoms, test dates, and known out-of-school exposures, there is no evidence of in-school-transmission of COVID-19 to students at Jensen Elementary," the district said. "We are heartbroken by the ongoing devastating impacts of COVID-19 on our community, and we hear the fear and anxiety our families feel with the uncertainty of this virus."
The district says that it has partnered with Lurie Children’s Hospital to provide COVID testing at Jensen beginning on Tuesday. District policy provides for the additional testing when five or more COVID cases are reported at a school.
The Chicago Teachers Union also said another Jensen parent died from complications from COVID-19, but CPS has not confirmed that as of Tuesday morning.
Johnson says the district needs to re-evaluate all of its COVID policies in the wake of her sister’s death, in order to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring again.
“Let my sister’s death not be in vain. They need to do something,” she said. “Do what is right. People’s lives are worth more than a dollar.”