Aldermen call for better testing, more information on CPS strategy to deal with COVID-19 outbreak

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CHICAGO – As Monday marked the first day back from winter vacation for Chicago public schools, parents and some aldermen have expressed concerns that the school district’s plans to detect and manage cases of COVID- 19 are inadequate and have not been communicated to members of city council.

The surge in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the highly contagious variant of the Omicron virus, raged through the end of 2021 and into the New Year as the city recorded an average of 3,940 new cases of the virus per day, up 42%. from a week ago.

Chicago’s positivity rate was 17.2% on Monday, up from 8.9% a week earlier, and hospitalizations for COVID-19 were up 38% from last week. The city averages 10 deaths a day from the virus.

In order to deal with the current increase in COVID cases, the CPS has sent rapid home tests with 150,000 students in 300 schools in “high-risk communities” and encouraged parents of other students to do so. test their children before they go back to school on Monday.

But many families who submitted test results for their CPS students were told there were issues with their submissions, Block the club reported Monday. Additionally, teachers at the CPS may not show up to teach in person on Wednesday, as the Chicago Teachers Union raised concerns about the district’s plans to keep students and staff safe and to mitigate the spread of the disease. COVID.

Several aldermen, including Ald. Maria Hadden (49th) took to social media this weekend to express concern over CPS plans to get the kids back to school after winter break.

“Aldermen aren’t really kept up to date, or at least not uniform at all,” Hadden said. The daily line, adding that she had heard from some aldermen over the past week being told of CPS ‘plans to return to school.

Hadden said she wants children to return to school and parents want their children to be back, but it needs to be done “in an organized and safe manner.”

Hadden said she had been in contact with principals in her neighborhood who had “raised concerns about staff shortages” and did not have enough staff to adequately serve the students.

Additionally, Hadden said she recently emailed Ald. Michael Scott (24th), who chairs the city council committee on education and child development, pondering a resolution (R2021-937) her, Ald. Jeanette Taylor (20th) and Ald. Rossana Rodriguez-Sachez (33rd) filed in September a request for a hearing with CPS officials regarding the district’s COVID plans. The resolution has nine sponsors.

The resolution details that CPS students returned to school on August 23 when the Delta was the primary variant of COVID-19 and “Chicago public schools made changes to their back-to-school plan , removing some of the mitigation measures of covid-19 “.

“Parents and students in the city are worried about slow contact tracing and notification of covid exposure, unintentional student deregistration and lack of distance learning options,” continues the resolution. Hadden, Rodriguez-Sanchez and Taylor used the resolution to call for a city council hearing on CPS’s “security plans, protocols and distance learning options for students”.

Scott has not scheduled a meeting for a hearing on CPS’s plans. The education committee met four times in 2021 – twice on Jan. 11, including for a “hearing to discuss the reopening of Chicago public schools.”

Related: Skeptical city councilors question CPS, public health officials over reopening plan

The impetus for a hearing came from concerns that the CPS was facing a staffing shortage, uncertainty testing and problems with cleaning school buildings, Hadden said, adding that it was originally asked to suspend the hearing after the CEO of the district, Pedro Martinez, had just taken office when the proposal was tabled.

Still, Hadden said aldermen should be kept apprised of CPS plans to deal with the growing number of COVID-19 cases Chicago is seeing.

“The council has not really been involved” in plans to reopen the CPS despite hearings with concerned voters and school principals “about their staff issues” and the schools’ need for COVID testing and a uniform testing policy, Hadden said.

Scott said The daily line Monday that he is working with CPC, teacher union leaders and aldermen to find a “solution-based” way to address concerns about this month’s return to school.

City council hearings can turn into ways for different sides of a problem to ‘stick [their] flag in the ground “and don’t necessarily end with the action,” Scott said, adding that he hoped “for something more solution-based than just having a hearing.”

“Everyone has a stake in making sure schools and children are safe,” Scott said, adding he had “spoken to both sides” and wanted to make sure aldermen stay informed of the process. ” proposing a practical solution-based solution for this problem.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot did not answer reporters’ questions during a public appearance on Monday, but spoke briefly about schools during a Monday morning interview on CNBC.

Lightfoot said distance learning at the start of the pandemic had a “devastating effect” on students and families. The mayor accused the Chicago Teachers Union of “sword shock” as the union calls for stricter testing requirements and specific action to determine when schools should switch to distance learning.

“We know the learning loss was profound” and “that there were huge variations in results,” Lightfoot said. “We know that the mental health issues and trauma of our students [were] real, and we know it was devastating for families, especially those where parents couldn’t afford not to work.

The mayor reiterated what she and officials said about school safety.

“Basically we know our schools are safe, our schools are not the source of significant spread,” Lightfoot said. “The problem is community spread, but we have to keep our kids in school, which is what we’re going to do in Chicago.”

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