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Mayor’s CPS team at last agrees to begin COVID testing at West Side School after most classes forced to quarantine, while mother complained of lax contact tracing before her death.

  • 4:00 p.m. TODAY, Tuesday, Sept. 28: LSC Speak-Out for Safety with Jensen Local School Council members, parents, educators. Jensen Elementary, 3030 W. Harrison St.

CHICAGO, Sept. 28, 2021 — Jensen Elementary’s Local School Council is organizing a speak-out for safety at the school with fellow parents, teachers and staff at 4:00 p.m. TODAY, Tuesday, September 28, at 3030 W. Harrison St.

Last week, eleven out of seventeen classrooms at Jensen Elementary were in quarantine. Elected officials joined parents, students and rank and file CTU members at Jensen last Wednesday to demand safety improvements that the mayor’s CPS team continues to ignore.

On Thursday, COVID claimed the life one 47-year-old school mother, and a second 32-year-old mother died on Friday. Both mothers had children sent home from quarantined Jensen classrooms. One mother complained bitterly on social media that she was never contacted by a contact tracer. Within a week she was dead.

Last school year, under the CTU’s safety agreement with CPS, members of the school community were tested weekly. This year, Tuesday will be the first day that COVID testing will be offered at the school, despite the fact that the school and the disadvantaged surrounding neighborhood have one of the lowest vaccine rates in the city.

The CTU is demanding an enforceable safety agreement with CPS that provides for weekly universal testing, contact tracing turn-arounds of 24 hours, robust school-based vaccination programs, and adequate staffing to support the needs of student traumatized by the harsh consequences of the pandemic, an epidemic of violence in the city, and the struggles of neighborhoods starved of civic resources for decades. The mayor’s CPS team has instead insisted on rolling back 75% of the safety guardrails the Union won last spring, including COVID testing, social distancing, contact tracing, ventilation inspections and standards, and a basic metric to determine when there was too much COVID in a school to safely remain open to in-person learning.

The Acero charter network closed its Zizumbo campus to unvaccinated students after three COVID cases surfaced in the school. By last week, Jensen had identified 8 COVID cases through self-reporting, but CPS has continued to refuse to put in-person learning on pause even as it’s been forced to admit its contact tracing program is severely understaffed. Jensen has no full-time nurse or janitor. The school nurse also covers two other schools, and the school janitor is responsible for cleaning one other school besides Jensen.

The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.