Park Manor Elementary School staff highlighted the failure of CPS to effectively distribute take-home COVID tests to students. Park Manor is among the 300 schools CPS promised to provide take-home COVID tests — but 70% of the school was in quarantine when those kits were supposed to be handed out. That’s left educators and staff scrambling this week to get those kits out to families — and help parents navigate a complex and obstructive process to get those results to CPS.
“Our community has low rates of testing and vaccination at the same time parents are worried about this new surge. As a parent I am deeply worried. My daughter tested positive as a result of having a positive case in her classroom before the break. She passed it to my oldest daughter who goes to another CPS school. This left my children with a terrible holiday, forced to open their gifts in isolation and we couldn’t share that moment with them,” said Taneka Griffin-Lindsey, special education classroom assistant and Local 73 member. “What is the Mayor going to do to improve testing and protect everyone. We need to know now.”
The classrooms of Park Manor Elementary cleared out well before December 17, the last day of school before holiday break officially began. At least a dozen and a half children and staff tested positive for COVID that week alone, sickening fully vaccinated staff and putting most of the school in quarantine. Because few students were in school to pick up CPS’ take-home tests, educators and school staff are working over break this week to get those kits out to families — and help them navigate the 14 step registration process on laptops or phones. They will also collect tests from families and drop those off at the nearest FedEx box, which is over a mile away from the school.
Instead of more barriers to testing, CTU and Local 73 are calling on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to reverse course and allow her CPS team to use an opt-out system of testing registration. Los Angeles, which uses opt-out for testing, has been lauded for its rapid and effective use of testing as a key mitigation tool, while in Chicago hundreds of schools have registered less than 10% of students for promised weekly tests.
Yet Lightfoot has refused to take leadership in protecting families and communities from COVID, rejecting rigorous school-based testing and vaccine programs even though barely half of students have been vaccinated and fewer than 10% are registered for COVID tests at hundreds of schools.
The mayor’s CPS team has repeatedly failed to meet even its own modest promises in testing and contact tracing, refused to stand up a robust student vaccine program, refused to document HVAC safety, failed to maintain even 3-foot social distancing, failed to improve serious problems with sanitation and cleanliness, and continues to reject a science-based metric to determine when there’s too much COVID to learn in-person safely.
At schools like Park Manor, that indifference to safety weighs heavily on staff, who remember the COVID deaths of two mothers at Jensen Elementary this fall, and of Local 73 member jonL Bush at Carnegie Elementary just after Thanksgiving. The mayor’s refusal to invest in COVID safety across the district — despite receiving more than $2.6 billion in federal COVID relief funds for students’ COVID recovery — raises real questions about whether CPS will be ready to safely open school doors on January 3 when the holiday break ends.