‘Our schools are safe’: Lightfoot, school and health officials try to ease fears about CPS reopening plan in virtual town hall

During a virtual town hall Wednesday evening, Mayor Lori Lightfoot stressed that teachers’ and students’ health are a top priority as some prepare to go back to school Thursday.

SHARE ‘Our schools are safe’: Lightfoot, school and health officials try to ease fears about CPS reopening plan in virtual town hall
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Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson visits a preschool classroom at Dawes Elementary School at 3810 W. 81st Pl. on the Southwest Side on Jan. 11, 2021.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

During a virtual town hall Wednesday evening, Mayor Lori Lightfoot stressed that teachers and students’ health are a top priority as some prepare to go back to the classroom Thursday.

Less than 24 hours after Chicago Teachers Union members approved Chicago Public Schools’ plan to return to in-person learning, more than 500 people tuned in to the livestream hosted by Lightfoot, CPS CEO Janice Jackson and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady.

Most of those viewers were CPS parents and students who sought clarity on the district’s reopening plan and shared safety concerns. The hourlong discussion covered vaccine availability for teachers, air quality in old school buildings and contact tracing.

Arwady said about 7,500 CPS staff members are scheduled to get vaccinated, and some have already received a dose.

“Vaccine is a part of the strategy, but just as a reminder, schools are safe,” Arwady said. “Even without the vaccine, they’ve been open all over the country without seeing them be a source of significant spread.”

Lightfoot said the current plan can limit the spread of the virus, pointing to the “proven success” of the first three weeks of having preschool and cluster students and teachers return to the classrooms earlier this year.

“Our schools are safe,” Lightfoot said. “... We are continuing to evaluate and look at more things that we can do, but we feel very confident that we have a very solid plan for those of you who are coming back into the schools in the classrooms.”

Jackson encouraged parents to report possible violations of the district’s COVID-19 protocol to their school’s principal.

“We can’t guarantee a COVID-free environment, but the protocols that we have in place are there to slow the spread and stop the spread of COVID,” Jackson said.

For more information, go to CPS.edu/reopening2020.


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