With only 7% of Black children and 13% of Latinx children age 5-11 fully vaccinated for COVID on 12/13, parents receive notice of failed results through mayor’s take-home testing scheme, as parents call for in-person learning pause for safety while COVID surges.

  • 7:00 a.m., Monday, January 3: Press conference with Park Manor Elementary School parents and educators, onsite and socially distanced. Park Manor Elementary, 7037 S. Rhodes, Greater Grand Crossing, Chicago.

CHICAGO — Park Manor Elementary was drowning in COVID cases and quarantines as schools went on winter break. Now dozens of those parents have learned that take-home tests they collected from volunteer educators last week are spoiled, meaning there is no way to know their child’s COVID status even as Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot continues to insist that schools reopen January 3 during the nation’s worst surge of the pandemic.

Park Manor parents will join CTU educators and support staff to talk about their safety concerns — including why they are keeping their children home and demanding a remote option for them this week — at a socially distanced press conference at 7:00 a.m. Monday, January 3, at Park Manor Elementary, 7037 S. Rhodes.

Parents will then have their children tested at a tent outside the school, organized over the weekend by the CTU, and depart for remote education at home with educators who will also leave to teach students remotely.

At least two dozen children and staff tested positive for COVID just before winter break at Park Manor, sickening fully vaccinated staff and putting most of the school in quarantine. CTU teachers and support staff returned to school last week over break to volunteer to hand out CPS’ take-home tests to families who could not get them on on pick-up day because they were quarantining. Educators also helped families complete complex registration and submission steps to ensure that those test results were properly recorded by CPS. But parents began receiving notice over the weekend that they should expect that those test results would be “unsatisfactory” — in short, that delays between sampling and actually processing those samples ended up spoiling test results.

The mayor’s CPS team has received more than $2.6 billion in federal COVID relief funds for students’ COVID recovery. Yet Lightfoot continues to refuse to take leadership in protecting families and communities from COVID, with no plans for rigorous school-based testing or vaccine programs.

Only 7% of Black children and 13% of Latinx children age 5-11 had been fully vaccinated for COVID in Chicago by mid-December, according to figures the CTU obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request to the Chicago Department of Public Health. CPS has refused to release school-by-school vaccine numbers, at the same time that few students are getting weekly COVID tests at hundreds of schools, with parents complaining that CPS is not even testing students who HAVE been signed up.

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.

CTU President Jesse Sharkey wrote the mayor twice in December — on December 17 and again on December 23 — to flag serious safety concerns as COVID has continued to surge. The mayor’s office has yet to answer.

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.