covid schools

COVID Concerns Spark Changes for Several Schools Ahead of Winter Break

NBC 5 News

Many schools are counting down the days before winter break, but for some, the break started early as rising COVID cases spark concerns across the Chicago area.

The recent surge has many districts scrambling to find ways to keep kids and staff safe.

Chicago's Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School and the Latin School of Chicago canceled classes Friday due to a number of staff and students testing positive.

Latin School of Chicago added that all after school activities, including athletics, were also canceled.

"Regarding our return to campus on Tuesday, January 4, we are currently working on a plan for testing everyone regardless of vaccination status," the school's website read.

Chicago Public Schools will distribute about 150,000 take-home COVID-19 test kits Friday to 309 schools in communities hit hard by the pandemic, the district announced.

“In Chicago, we are in a wicked post-Thanksgiving COVID surge — 929 daily cases on average here in the city of Chicago. As the city goes, so goes CPS,” Dr. Kenneth Fox, CPS’ chief health officer, said at Wednesday’s monthly Chicago Board of Education meeting. “When cases surge in the city, so, too, do they surge at CPS.”

The district reported its highest weekly COVID-19 case count last week: 764 students and 246 adults. The district also reported its highest daily case count on Monday: 223 students and 59 adults. Last month CPS was recording about 300 to 400 total cases a week, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The schools picked to receive the in neighborhoods designated high risk for COVID-19 or are elementary schools in neighborhoods deemed medium risk, officials said. Families who receive the kits are encouraged to test students Dec. 28 to allow enough time to get results before students return from winter break Jan. 3. Students who test positive would be directed to isolate for 10 days from the testing date.

“I ask parents, I plead with parents: Please take advantage of this if your school is in one of these communities,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said. “Take advantage of this test, especially with all the gatherings" during the holidays.

Evanston Township High School canceled all events and activities in the lead-up to the Christmas holiday, officials announced Thursday, noting an increase in COVID cases among students and staff.

ETHS canceled all "non-essential events, activities and meetings" from after school Thursday through Dec. 23, according to a release.

"This means non-instructional events and activities, such as extracurricular clubs, sports, etc., will not be held during this period," the release said.

The Chicago Teachers Union plans to hold a press conference Friday morning to address the rise in cases at Chicago schools.

Note: An earlier version of this story reported Francis W. Parker school had canceled classes Friday. The school is not closed and this story has been corrected to reflect that change.

NBC Chicago/Associated Press
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