CTU blasts CPS COVID safety plan over failure to test unvaccinated students

Chicago News

CHICAGO — The Chicago Teachers’ Union says Chicago Public Schools administrators are failing to provide the promised weekly Covid testing of unvaccinated students.

Union officials said Monday that they were promised eight weeks of testing but have only received two so far. As a result, the union said it intends to up the pressure.

“It’s got to be better,” said CTU president Jesse Sharkey. “It has to improve.”

On Monday, CTU organizers held a rain-soaked demonstration outside of Marvin Camras Elementary School on Chicago’s Northwest Side. CTU was planning to work with a local clinic to conduct testing and administer vaccines at the school on Tuesday but due to a scheduling conflict, the event will be postponed.

“Today we got rained out, but we’ll be back tomorrow,” Sharkey said. “What we hope is that tomorrow or the day after that, or very soon, the city of Chicago puts its full resources behind the vaccination program.”

Union leaders say Camras Elementary School is a prime example of the city’s ‘botched’ COVID-19 testing plan.  

“What’s happening in Chicago right now is that we are not getting maximum safety from the mayor of the city and the school system she appoints,” Sharkey said.   

CTU officials noted that less than half of CPS students eligible for the vaccine had received shots —and the number is only one in four among Black students. Yet, new CPS CEO Pedro Martinez says the district has seen significant improvements over the last three weeks. While he praised increased COVID-19 testing inside schools, Martinez also sought patience from union officials and district members.

“We’ve ramped up enough so that at least we can get the children that are now consented and then unvaccinated staffed,” Martinez said.  “Unfortunately, to try to do everybody – all staff, again, it just would take a lot more time.”

CPS said it would provide comprehensive testing information by Tuesday, Oct. 26.

The union said some teachers expressed their concerns directly to parents. The district has discouraged such moves in the past.   

Martinez said relief might come soon, as the CDC is set to meet to discuss expanding vaccine eligibility to children between 5 and 11 years old. The CPS CEO also said testing capacity will continue to grow.   

“It’s not going to be perfect, but we’re going to keep striving,” Martinez said. “But the testing capacity has never been higher and it’s going to continue to grow.”  

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