CPS parents question safety of students taking CTA if schools reopen this fall

Chicago Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said students and staff who take public transportation should follow existing safety guidelines.

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CPS held a community meeting in Spanish about a potential fall reopening Wednesday.

Sun-Times Media

Parents in a virtual Chicago Public Schools meeting for the Spanish-speaking community questioned whether students will be safe taking public transportation to schools if they reopen this fall, as planned, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The question on the CTA was one of several posed Wednesday to CPS officials, who are hosting a series of meetings on the district’s plans that would see most students attending school two days a week this fall. Officials answered a number of questions during Wednesday’s meeting but were unable to address the majority of concerns raised during a half-hour Q&A session with parents and others.

CPS CEO Janice Jackson acknowledged the risk some students and staff will take during their commutes.

“Of course, every time you enter a bus you are taking a risk,” she said. “We can’t control what happens on a CTA bus, the same way we can’t control what’s happening in each individual person’s home.”

Chicago Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said the health department has been working closely with the CTA to make sure people wear masks and practice social distancing while on public transit.

“We’re running many more trains right now that would be required based on the number of riders to make sure that we can maintain that distance as much as we can,” she said during the meeting. “Where students and staff are using public transportation to get to school it would be important that they’re doing the same things that everybody else taking the CTA would be doing.”

CPS Chief of Facilities Clarence Carson said the cleaning program for CPS buses was very similar to the one for its buildings, with a focus on cleaning and disinfection of high-touch areas, requiring everyone to wear face coverings and keeping windows open to allow for fresh air ventilation.

Jackson said CPS’ preliminary framework for a hybrid reopening of remote and in-class learning was mainly focused on keeping students safe while at school, and she pointed out the difficulty of keeping track of each student while outside the learning environment.

“We will have a lot of protocols in place as they enter our buildings, while they’re in our buildings and as they exit, but a lot of the.......scenarios about what happens outside the school setting it would be impossible to manage those things.”

Parents raised similar concerns about returning to schools in the first public meeting hosted by CPS Monday. Two more meetings are scheduled this week on Thursday and Friday.

At the end of the meeting participants were asked to take a poll on how comfortable they felt about the preliminary reopening plan. The poll showed 40% were completely uncomfortable with the plan, with another 25% being somewhat uncomfortable.

CPS officials and the mayor said the final decision on whether students will return to schools will be made in late August and will depend on health conditions at the time.

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