Chicago Public Schools

Thousands of CPS Students Return to Classrooms Monday

Students, faculty and staff must abide by an indoor mask mandate, and employees will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 15.

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More than 300,000 students who attend Chicago Public Schools are set to return to classrooms Monday for the start of the school year.

The return comes as the district and the Chicago Teachers Union remain at odds over whether enough safety measures have been put in place.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot has insisted the district's 644 schools will be safe as students are welcomed back Monday, but with the delta variant surging, the teachers' union claims CPS isn't ready and its members are concerned.

"We don't have baseline or surveillance testing mandated in any way, shape or form," CTU Vice President Stacy Davis Gates said Friday.

Furthermore, the union contends the school district is stripping some COVID safety measures that were put in place last year.

For instance, temperature checks will no longer be done in schools, unlike in the spring. Instead, parents will be asked to check their students for COVID-19 symptoms, and four times a year parents will sign a form to indicate they're performing such screenings.  

The CTU posted a photo from a charter school on social media, explaining the school isn't following the promised 3 feet of physical distance when possible.

Even though testing will be available to students, it won't be required.

Students, faculty and staff must abide by an indoor mask mandate, and employees will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by Oct. 15.

Those who have not already reported to the district that they are fully vaccinated must be tested once a week at a minimum until Oct. 15 or until proof of vaccination is submitted. Staff with a documented exemption will need to be tested for the remainder of the year.

Lightfoot announced a vaccine requirement for all city workers Wednesday, but has not elaborated on what the consequences will be for those who don't comply.

"It's a condition of employment," the mayor said. "We are in a pandemic. We have a deadly variant that is killing people in our city every single day."

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker also announced a vaccine mandate for teachers in the state last week.

Some children and families are already facing a predicament before the academic year begins - a lack of transportation.

Due to "a rush of" bus driver resignations within the past week, CPS says it's not able to accommodate transportation for approximately 2,100 students during the beginning of the school year.

"“We are saddened and extremely frustrated by this situation, and we express our sincerest apologies to the impacted families for the inconvenience this has caused —  especially with such short notice," the district said in a statement.

In turn, CPS is offering affected families stipends of $1,000 for the first two weeks and $500 the following months, but notes the payments "will not completely alleviate the predicament."

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