Chicago Public Schools officials have canceled all classes Nov. 12 in an effort to boost vaccinations among students.
Officials said late Thursday that with the federal government’s approval of the vaccine for kids ages 5-11 earlier this week, they are calling off school next Friday “to ensure all eligible students have the opportunity to receive the vaccine as quickly as possible.”
“Vaccination Awareness Day on Friday, November 12 is an opportunity for parents and guardians to take their children five years of age and older to get vaccinated at their pediatrician’s office, at a healthcare provider, or at a CPS school-based site or community vaccination event,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said in an email to parents.
Sporting events will not be canceled.
By contrast, New York city’s public schools, the largest system in the nation, are hosting an in-school vaccination day next week. About 1,070 schools, all those serving kids age 5-11, will offer shots at school that day.
Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey welcomed the news and urged the district to do more to keep schools and kids safe during the pandemic.
He asked parents in a statement to “continue to push CPS in the right direction in providing robust outreach, school-based vaccinations during flexible hours, and collaboration with families on engagement and incentives.”
Just over 58% of Chicago children ages 12-17 have been vaccinated, according to city data. But fewer than half of CPS students that age have gotten a shot, officials said this week. That age group has been eligible since the spring.
CPS already has a number of days off this month, including Friday for an institute day and next Thursday for Veteran’s Day. There are also days off for report-card pickup and the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is rare that we make a late change to the school calendar, but we see this as an important investment in the future of this school year and the health and wellbeing of our students, staff, and families,” Martinez wrote. “I hope you will strongly consider getting your children vaccinated on Vaccination Awareness Day.”
Free vaccines can be obtained at sites around the city. In addition, CPS has set up four regional vaccination clinics where students can get shots. Appointments can be made at cps.edu/vaccinations. The sites are at:
- Michelle Clark Magnet High School, 5101 W. Harrison St.
- Chicago Vocational High School, 2100 E 87th St.
- Theodore Roosevelt High School, 3436 W. Wilson Ave.
- Richards Career Academy High School, 5009 South Laflin St.
On Wednesday, the teachers union issued a statement noting that fewer than 1,000 of all eligible students between ages 12 and 17 have been vaccinated at each of those vaccination sites, amounting to a paltry average of just 34 vaccinations a week at those locations. The union had warned “there is no plan in place to provide access for CPS families, just as there was no place in place for COVID testing to start the school year.”
In the statement, Sharkey urged the school district to take a series of steps to get more students inoculated, including setting up a vaccination clinic at every school, organizing after-school events and providing “incentives” for families.
“Claiming that ‘everything is fine’ while short-changing the safety of other people’s children is no way to build trust,” he said.
Dr. Allison Arwady, the city’s top public health official, announced last week that roughly 100,000 pediatric doses of the vaccine are expected to arrive in the city during the first week of its availability. There are about 210,000 children in the 5 to 11 age range living in the city, she said.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates.