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CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools announced Friday it will require all employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine — unless they qualify for a medical or religious exemption.

The measure is required for all Board of Education employees, which includes: school-based teachers and staff, central office, regular vendors and network employees, and all other Board employees.

Staff will need to submit proof of full vaccination by Oct. 15, unless they have an approved religious or medical exemption.

CPS students will return back to school full-time in-person on August 30. The district says this measure will help protect students and staff.

“Our Chicago Public School communities deserve a safe and healthy environment that will allow our students to reach their greatest potential,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “This new policy enhances the district’s comprehensive reopening plan and ensures that students and staff can confidently learn in-person. Taking this step will further our citywide vaccination efforts and build on our progress in slowing and stopping the spread of COVID-19.” 

Employees who have not previously reported to the district that are fully vaccinated must be tested once a week at a minimum until Oct. 15, or until proof of vaccination is submitted.

Testing will continue throughout the school year for staff with a documented exemption.

Parents said they welcome the news but wonder why it is coming at the 11th hour and why the deadline isn’t until nearly two months after students head back to class. The union said CPS still has a long way to go to ensure safety, especially with the Delta variant surging and low vaccination rates of minority students.

According to available data, 78 percent of all CPS employees are fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated, or had a vaccination scheduled as of June, while 67 percent reported being fully vaccinated. This data includes individuals who have reported their status to the district and CPS site vaccination data and it may not tell a complete picture.  

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The Chicago Teachers Union issued the following statement Friday regarding CPS’ response to the union’s proposal on vaccinations for educators and staff.

For months, our members have been working to educate our students, their parents and the larger community about the importance of vaccinations and mitigation strategies to keep Chicago safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes pressing Mayor Lori Lightfoot to establish a robust vaccination program through the schools — an area where CPS and the City must do much more.

CPS’ response today to our formal proposal from August 10 mirrors the vaccination policy agreement we landed with Epic Academy Charter School earlier this week. CPS’ announcement sets a deadline for employee vaccination, requires mandatory testing for unvaccinated staff in the interim and provides exemptions for employees who cannot be vaccinated for bona fide medical or religious reasons.  

We urge the mayor’s CPS team to build on this safety standard by concretely addressing critical outstanding safety issues, and investing CPS’ and the City’s $4 billion in federal relief funds in what our students and families need to return to schools safely this fall, and for schools to remain open.

The Chicago Teachers Union