As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention weighs potential changes to a host of COVID protocols, Chicago Public Schools has announced the tweaks it will make to the district’s handling of the virus this fall.
According to Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, and CPS CEO Pedro Martinez, CPS will not require students and faculty to be vaccinated against the virus when they return to buildings this fall.
What’s more, students will also not be required to wear masks on a regular basis, but will have to do so in specific cases, according to officials.
“CPS and all schools around Chicago have been doing a lot of preparation for the upcoming school year, and there are a huge amount of resources that have gone into this at CPS,” Arwady said. “COVID continues to change, and it’s important that the protocols continue to evolve as we learn more, so I think we’re in a really good place heading into the school year.”
Here’s what we know about the district’s policies:
Under this year’s protocols, neither students nor faculty will be required to receive COVID vaccines, although the district still “strongly encourages” eligible individuals to get the shots.
“Close Contact” Procedures
According to officials, there will be changes to the district’s “close contact” protocols, including a step away from the “test-to-stay” program that the district had previously used.
Officials say that just 1.5% of people deemed to be “close contacts” of COVID patients ended up testing positive for the virus themselves, leading to the changes.
Unvaccinated individuals will have the following three options when they are deemed to be a “close contact” of a COVID case:
-Submit proof of full vaccination
-Learn/work from home for a period of five days, and then wear a mask in school for days 6-through-10
-Participate in “Test-to-Stay” protocols.
Under those protocols, students and faculty must
-Obtain two rapid tests from their school
-Test negative on the Monday and Thursday after exposure and submit the results to CPS
-Remain symptom-free throughout the following days.
-Wear a mask and refrain from participating in sports and extracurricular activities for 10 days after exposure
According to CPS, masking will not be required in most situations, but is still “strongly recommended.” Masks will be available to those who request them, according to officials.
In certain instances, however, masking will be required:
-Students and staff who are returning from isolation after a positive COVID test will be required to wear a mask until they have passed 10 days since the onset of their symptoms.
-Individuals who are identified as “close contacts” of COVID patients will have to mask for 10 days following their exposure, regardless of their vaccination status.
-If there are three or more cases of COVID within a single classroom, students and faculty will be required to wear a mask for at least 10 days after the last positive result is reported.
Contact Tracing Changes
-In elementary schools, contact tracing will be done at the classroom level, meaning that if one individual tests positive for the virus, every other individual in the classroom will automatically be deemed “close contacts” and will be notified of the test result.
Those individuals would then be required to wear a mask for up to 10 days after the exposure.
-In high schools, contact tracing will be done at an individual level, and the response will vary depending on whether or not the student or staff member is vaccinated against COVID.
* Vaccinated students and faculty who are deemed “close contacts” will be allowed to remain in school as long as they wear a mask for 10 days after their exposure.
* Unvaccinated students and staff will be required to work or study from home for five days, and then to wear a mask for days 6-through-10, unless they opt to participate in “Test-to-Stay” protocols.
Additional Protocols and Policies:
-Air filters have been replaced in all CPS schools
-CPS will thoroughly clean and disinfect all schools prior to the school year.
-CPS will offer four permanent vaccination clinics at Clark, Roosevelt, CVCA and Richards.
-Students and faculty who wish to enroll in weekly COVID testing must do so prior to the school year with new consent forms. Those can be found at color.com/readycheckgo-cps
Unvaccinated students and faculty are encouraged, but not required, to enroll. Testing will begin on Aug. 29, with at-home tests offered the week of Aug. 22.