Chicago Public Schools CPS parents’ new back-to-school worry: COVID’s raging delta variant

Aug 27, 2021 by

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to speak at Bradley | CIProud.com

Some cautiously optimistic, others fearing the worst, parents are preparing for the return Monday of full in-person learning at Chicago’s schools.

Ami Barry and her daughter Kennedy were battling COVID-19 earlier this month after being exposed to the virus at a family gathering in Chicago.

Now recovered, Kennedy, 10, goes back to school Monday as a fifth-grader at McDade Elementary School in Chatham.

It’s a day she’s been looking forward to. Her mom’s excited, too, though she hopes her still-unvaccinated daughter will be able to avoid being infected again.

“I’m just praying for a safe school year,” Barry said.

Naoma Nagahawatte isn’t as happy about sending her 8-year-old son Oliver back to school. Nagahawatte, advocacy director for the parent activist group Raise Your Hand, thinks the Chicago Public Schools should continue to offer the option of remote learning. She questions CPS’s health and safety plans, which include masking, optional testing for the virus and minimal social distancing.

“We are uncomfortable with the lack of guarantees CPS has put in place,” Nagahawatte said. “It doesn’t foster confidence.”

From cautious optimism to fears for the worst, parents are preparing for the return Monday of full in-person learning at Chicago’s schools.

“They’re right to be concerned,” said José Torres, CPS’s interim chief executive officer, though he also assured parents the school system’s efforts to keep kids safe from the virus will be effective.

CPS’s reopening at full capacity comes amid a new COVID surge fueled by the highly contagious version of the virus known as the Delta variant. Though the recent rise in the number of coronavirus cases doesn’t compare with previous larger waves, thousands of school-age children in Chicago and across Illinois have been infected. And this latest wave of the coronavirus shows no sign of slowing.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s decision to return public school students to classrooms last spring was made before the recent explosion of the Delta variant, which is soaring across the country.

CPS officials have said there were few cases of known in-school transmission of COVID-19 when some students returned to classrooms last winter and spring. That was before the Delta variant spread, though. And only about 25% of CPS students were in the classroom then.

Since the beginning of June, just before Lightfoot announced Chicago’s full reopening and state health officials identified early Delta cases, there have been more than 2,400 new infections, 43 hospitalizations and two deaths reported among children 17 and younger in the city. The number of cases reported continues to rise, with infections statewide rapidly escalating among kids 5 to 17 years old.

Even though anyone 12 and older is eligible under federal guidelines to be vaccinated, older school-age children are seeing a similar rise in COVID — up about 90% since June.

By mid-August, the number of COVID infections among kids 5 to 11 years old statewide was nearly 2,200, compared with 200 in early June, just before state health officials first saw a smattering of Delta cases. The variant now accounts for almost all COVID infections, health officials say.

Source: Chicago Public Schools CPS parents’ new back-to-school worry: COVID’s raging delta variant – Chicago Sun-Times

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