With less than three weeks until in-person classes resume, Chicago Public Schools has announced it will require all teachers and staff to get a COVID-19 vaccine by the fall.
CPS on Friday announced the vaccine mandate will affect all employees, from school-based teachers and staff to central office workers, vendors and all other Board of Education employees.
“The science is clear: higher populations of vaccinated people means better health outcomes in communities, safer places of work and public spaces,” interim CPS CEO Jose Torres said in a statement. “This is the right move for the greater good of our school communities and will help ensure we have a successful and healthy school year starting on Monday, August 30.”
Under the new policy, all CPS employees must submit proof of full vaccination by Oct. 15, except those who qualify for a medical or religious exemption. Staffers who are without an approved exemption and aren’t fully vaccinated by Oct. 15 will be ineligible to work and won't be paid until they are fully vaccinated and provide confirmation to the district.
The science is clear: higher populations of vaccinated people mean better health outcomes for our school communties. Ensuring our educators and staff are vaccinated will ensure we are starting a successful and healthy school year on Monday, August 30. https://t.co/YMvwgJ1eqr
— Dr. Torres (@JosemtorresM) August 13, 2021
Per CPS, 67% of the district's 38,000 employees are fully vaccinated as of June, the most recent data available, while 78% of all employees are either fully vaccinated, partially vaccinated or had a vaccination scheduled.
Those employees who aren’t yet fully vaccinated must be tested at least once a week, either until Oct. 15 or until they submit proof of vaccination. Testing will continue throughout the school year for staff with a documented exemption.
The Chicago Teachers Union, which is continuing to bargain with CPS over COVID-19 safety plans, has repeatedly called on the district to provide more vaccination programs for students and improve air safety and sanitation inside school buildings to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.
The union on Friday said it will continue pushing Mayor Lori Lightfoot and CPS “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.”
Last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker ordered that all students and staff across Illinois must wear masks while inside school buildings when in-person classes resume.
The district’s vaccine mandate comes as COVID-19 numbers, driven largely by the more contagious delta variant, continue rising in Chicago and beyond. As of Friday, the city is averaging 369 new cases per day, according to data from the Chicago Department of Public Health.
That’s an increase of 36% over last week. Chicago’s positivity rate also now stands at 3.9%, up from 3.5% last week.
“As I have said all along, the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. The vaccine is safe, effective, and anyone 12 and older can get it for free in Chicago,” CDPH Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said in a statement. “For the social and emotional well-being of our young people, they need to be in school, and the vaccine adds another layer of protection to our plan to safely re-open schools.”