Vaccinations for Thousands of CPS Staff to Begin Mid-February
CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) today announced details of the plan to vaccinate thousands of eligible staff and educators under phase 1b of the city’s vaccination plan. CPS expects to begin receiving vaccines directly in mid-February, at which point it will begin a multi-month effort to offer vaccinations to eligible staff.
“Vaccinating our frontline essential workers who continue to provide for our communities during this difficult time – including CPS educators and staff – has always been a key goal of our City’s vaccination strategy,” said Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. “Not only will this vaccination plan bolster our safety initiatives as we welcome students and staff back into the classroom, but it will also put our city on the right track to reopening and returning to a sense of normalcy. I am excited for our school staff and educators to get vaccinated and look forward to working closely with CPS and CDPH to make sure it is accessible and distributed equitably.”
“After months of COVID-19 ravaging our communities, we are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and are looking forward to executing a strategy in partnership with CDPH to vaccinate all of our employees,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “I’d like to thank Governor Pritzker and Mayor Lightfoot for prioritizing education by recognizing the integral role school staff and educators play in society by prioritizing their vaccination.”
Per the State of Illinois and CDPH’s vaccination plan, vaccination eligibility is expanding to school staff and other employees in frontline essential roles beginning on January 25 in phase 1b. Vaccine availability is ultimately dependent upon the number of vaccines the city receives. As part of the vaccination plan, CDPH will distribute vaccine to CPS beginning mid-February, with the amount contingent upon federal vaccine allocations. The district will administer the vaccine through school-based sites for CPS employees and newly eligible employees under 1b are also able to independently pursue vaccines through their own healthcare providers or pharmacies.
The district recently launched partnerships with several healthcare organizations to provide approximately 1,500 staff who serve in healthcare roles who are eligible under phase 1a to receive vaccination over the next two weeks. Through the district’s partnerships, there are enough vaccine doses for all eligible 1a CPS employees who have not yet received a vaccine independently.
“These vaccines are safe and effective, and while we’re asking for patience as we work through the roll-out, we encourage everyone to get vaccinated when it is their turn,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “Studies, including our own, have consistently supported that in-person learning is safe and not a source of significant spread of the virus. In fact, we are more concerned about spread in social situations outside school, where there are fewer controls and precautions in place.”
Through CDPH’s vaccine plan, CDPH sets aside vaccines for priority groups while employers set prioritization within groups based on best available science and guidance. The district’s plan prioritizes roles based on the time the specific role has spent working in school buildings during the closure, and proximity to other employees based on their role.
Equitable Access to Vaccination
The district is anticipating receiving vaccines in phases based on when they are available from the federal government. Accordingly, CPS has developed a prioritization system based on the level of exposure to others and ability to reliably maintain mitigation measures, as well as the amount of time the specific role has been serving in-person during the closure. Within individual categories, employees who fall into the following groups may be further prioritized if they are age 65 or over, or have a high risk medical condition per CDC. Having an ADA or caretaker accommodation to work from home will not impact prioritization status for employees.
A detailed chart outlining prioritization can be found below:
In order to ensure equity of access, the district will be setting up multiple vaccination sites across the city that will be open only to CPS employees, with hours of operation that are accommodating to the work schedules of employees to minimize learning and work disruptions. CPS will also actively coordinate and communicate vaccine availability to CPS employees through other partner organizations serving broader groups of Phase 1B-eligible Chicagoans. Employees can also independently seek vaccination from their healthcare provider.
Employees currently working from home with an ADA accommodation for a medical condition will be in the category that corresponds with their role — regardless of whether they have reported for in-person learning at any time. Upon being inoculated, the district expects many employees with an ADA medical accommodation will begin reporting in-person. At this time, the vaccine has not been cleared for use by children and research has shown that school-based COVID-19 transmission is uncommon.
If the federal government is able to provide vaccines on its intended schedule, the district is working toward vaccination of all of its employees in the coming months. While vaccination is a critical step in working toward resuming normal operations, public health officials do not recommend delaying in-person instruction until employees are vaccinated. This assessment is based on extensive research which shows that schools can operate safely when necessary mitigations such as mandatory mask-wearing, social distancing, hybrid scheduling and other measures implemented by the district are utilized.
Chicago Public Schools serves 341,000 students in 638 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.