Board to Vote on Allowing Chicago Public Schools to Require Staff to Get COVID-19 Vaccine

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The Chicago Board of Education is set to vote Wednesday on a new policy that would allow Chicago Public Schools to require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the future and require staff to disclose their vaccination status.

The board will vote on the updated district policy during its monthly meeting Wednesday morning. It would authorize CPS to require disclosure of vaccination status, "which the district plans to implement," a spokesman for the district said.

It would also allow the district to require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine in the future, which a CPS spokesman said the district does not have "immediate plans to implement" as a requirement.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot addressed the issue during an unrelated news conference on Tuesday.

When asked if CPS would require employees to be vaccinated, Lightfoot said, "We are offering vaccines to all CPS employees and that work has been ongoing and many of them are getting vaccinated even before the formal programs were offered. So yes, we will be offering it to all CPS employees."

When pressed, she said, "There's not a requirement for employment for everyone but we certainly want to encourage everyone to take advantage of this life saving vaccine."

"What I said is we will be offering it to all CPS employees, teachers, cafeteria workers, janitors and so forth. But it is not a condition," Lightfoot added when asked a third time to clarify if vaccinations would be required.

"Now, if you look at the agreement that we reached with CTU, if someone is offered the vaccine and chooses not to take it and they are not otherwise subject to an accommodation, there's a process for addressing that," she added, in reference to the agreement reached with the Chicago Teachers Union after months of acrimonious negotiations over the return to in-person learning.

"But our hope is that everyone who's given the opportunity to take this vaccine takes advantage of it because it's truly saving lives and it's one of the things that I know that teachers and other people within CPS are most concerned about."

CPS began offering vaccinations to teachers and staff weeks ago under the agreement reached with the union to return to in-person learning. That deal included CPS offering vaccinations to 2,000 pre-K and cluster program staff members - those asked to return to classrooms first in the staggered schedule - as well as staff with medically vulnerable household members who were not given accommodations to continue working remotely.

Under the deal, the district said it also agreed to administer vaccinations to 1,500 employees per week out of the city's supply at CPS' vaccination sites and noted that staff at the city's 15 communities most impacted by COVID-19 may be eligible to be vaccinated through the city's "Protect Chicago Plus" initiative.

Four vaccination sites solely focused on administering the COVID-19 vaccine to CPS teachers and staff opened earlier this month, with 1,500 doses of the vaccine to be administered at those sites each week.

Educators and other essential workers are also currently eligible to be vaccinated under the current phase of Illinois' vaccine rollout plan, Phase 1B, which began in January.

The new proposal to potentially require CPS employees to be vaccinated or disclose their vaccination status comes days before kindergarten through 5th grade students are scheduled to return to classrooms on March 1. Staff for grades 6 through 8 are slated to return that same day, with students in those grades scheduled to come back on March 8.

There are no plans currently in place for high school students to return to in-person learning.

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