Dr. Allison Arwady Details Health Department's Approach to Return-to-School Debate

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As the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools continue to discuss what school will look like when it resumes in the fall, Chicago Department of Public Health Director Dr. Allison Arwady says that her department is carefully evaluating how to best keep children safe later this year.

During a Facebook Live discussion Tuesday, Arwady says she is in favor of in-person instruction if it can be done safely.

“I personally am in favor of having children in school,” she said. “(If) the child is at school wearing a mask with the social distancing and appropriate procedures in place, I honestly do not think the risk of spread is significant. I wouldn’t be promoting this if I thought it was.”

Even still, Arwady says that the current rise in coronavirus case numbers in the city and throughout the state have her carefully evaluating all options.

“The more our numbers are going up in Chicago, the more concern I have about this because as our cases increase, the risk of people having COVID, especially asymptomatic-COVID, does go up,” she said.

That increase in cases has led to the current state of negotiations between the CTU and CPS. Teachers have been pushing hard for a return to remote-learning for the beginning of the school year, while CPS has been evaluating a number of potential options, including a hybrid approach that blends in-person and remote learning.

As a result of the stalemate, CTU’s House of Delegates is expected to meet next week to call for a strike vote if CPS moves ahead with plans for in-person learning.

As that decision nears, Arwady says her department is continuing to evaluate all options, and hopes that kids can be safely welcomed back to school sooner rather than later.

“It will be a local decision based on what our local outbreak looks like, and our numbers are on the way up, so I have some concern there,” she said. “If the outbreak is broadly in control, I feel pretty strongly that there are benefits to in-person education, especially for younger children who don’t learn well from screens, and all of the social emotional benefits and all the other things that we’ve talked about.”

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