March 13, 2020 City of Chicago Prepares for Closure of all K-12 Schools, as Mandated by the State of Illinois Following Governor Pritzker’s mandate, all schools in the City and the State will be closed from March 17 until March 31 due to COVID-19 CONTACT: Mayor’s Press Office 312.744.3334 firstname.lastname@example.org CHICAGO – Following the mandate issued by Governor JB Pritzker this afternoon, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot joined Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson and other city officials to update the public on emergency preparedness plans in place for students in the wake of school closures. CPS and all other school districts across the state will remain closed from Tuesday, March 17 until Tuesday, March 31, according to a new state mandate issued to mitigate the further spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19). During this period of school closure, the administration and its public health officials are strongly recommending that students stay home and practice social distancing to prevent further spread. Recognizing the hardship school closures present to families, CPS is working to provide families with food and services available at their neighborhood CPS school. “We understand the governor’s decision to close schools statewide, but the City will not shrink from our obligation to provide essential services that CPS students and parents depend on,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “The health and safety of our children are of paramount importance. The City is finalizing a contingency plan that will meet the needs of vulnerable populations and ensure all our children are safe and engaged, but it is critical employers are flexible as parents seek childcare.” Currently, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 involving CPS students, and no confirmed staff cases beyond the initial case announced on March 6. The closures will affect over 350,000 students enrolled in the district, and all network, area and central offices will be closed except for personnel needed for essential operations. Earlier today, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced a system-wide closure of Catholic schools, effective Monday, March 16. This decision applies to all Catholic schools in Cook and Lake Counties operated by the Archdiocese of Chicago. Catholic schools not operated by the archdiocese, such as those governed by religious orders, will make decisions individually. “As a CPS parent, I understand this may be a difficult time for families but we will be working with our partners at the City and State to help connect our families to critical services during this time,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “We are one CPS family and our students and staff will receive regular updates about our plan to support them in the coming days.” While schools remain closed, the City and CPS are working to ensure all students in the district have access to food and educational enrichment activities during this time. As the largest and most diverse district in the state, CPS has more than 70 percent of families which qualify for free or reduced lunch. All CPS families and staff are being alerted to the district-wide closure via e-mail and robocall and CPS will be working with citywide leadership to coordinate resources for students across schools and parks during out of school time starting next week. The District is taking the following steps to keep students safe and engaged: CPS will provide meals to all students in need. All CPS families will be able to pick up meals outside of their nearest CPS school beginning March 17, between 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Monday-Friday throughout the closure. The Greater Chicago Food Depository and Chicago’s network of food providers stand ready to support vulnerable families impacted by school closures or other hardships. A full list of locations is available at www.chicagosfoodbank.org/find-food/ Students will receive educational enrichment activities on Monday, and schools will work to ensure students are engaged throughout their time away from the classroom. Project based packets will be ready for principals to print out on Monday to be sent home with students. Limited recreational and enrichment activities will be at select Chicago Park District facilities. Activities will be offered in a safe setting and will adhere to Chicago Department of Public Health social distancing recommendations. Beginning this weekend, the City will conduct a full and thorough cleaning of select Chicago Park District and Chicago Public Library sites. A list of site locations will be made available at cps.edu/coronavirus. “The health and safety of Chicago Public School students and all children in Chicago is always our number one priority,” said Allison Arwady, M.D. Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Health. “As I’ve said before, younger people seem to tolerate COVID-19 better than adults, but with this news we are thinking even more about how to protect them and everyone from further spread of this virus. And for children who will now be out of school, we want them as well as their parents, caregivers and families to follow the preventive guidance that we have been sharing throughout this process: if you are sick, stay home and avoid sick people; wash your hands several times a day; always remember to cover your cough and sneeze; avoid touching your face, nose and eyes; and don’t shake hands – instead bump elbows or just wave.” Prior to Governor Pritzker’s announcement, CPS had developed contingency plans for various scenarios and the district is finalizing guidance on enrichment learning opportunities, resources for families and other critical information. Parents are encouraged to continue to monitor the district’s website cps.edu/coronavirus for updates and information. The district will be rolling out robocalls and will provide regular updates as they become available. Chicago public health officials continue to encourage all residents to practice social distancing—a key recommendation by health experts to further prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease. According to the CDC, social distancing involves “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance” whenever possible to limit the ability of the virus to spread. Mayor Lightfoot encourages Chicago employers to remain flexible during school closures, and to take steps to provide leave as parents across the city work to keep their families safe, healthy and secure. Earlier today, the Lightfoot administration rolled out a set of temporary policies to City of Chicago staff to ensure those impacted by COVID-19 are given additional paid time off and permitted to work from home when possible. # # #District Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resources for Parents Frequently Asked Questions March 13 School Closure Announcement March 13, 2020 – Dear CPS Parents, Families, and Staff, The past several weeks have been difficult as we’ve watched the COVID-19 health crisis impact countries around the world, and now our home. Today, Governor Pritzker announced that all Illinois schools, including Chicago Public Schools, will close beginning Tuesday, March 17 through Monday, March 30. Classes are currently scheduled to resume on Tuesday, March 31. School-sponsored activities, events, field trips, and athletic events are also canceled during this time. I recognize the impact this closure will have on our community, and I know it will greatly burden our students, staff, and working families who rely on our schools. I want to assure you that COVID-19 will not stop our work on behalf of children. We are one family with one goal, and we are here to support you. Important Information for Families and Staff All school buildings will be closed for deep cleaning. Schools will be closed to all students and staff beginning Tuesday, March 17 through Monday, March 30. Only environmental cleaning experts will be allowed in school buildings along with essential staff. Families should not send their children to schools. Healthy meals will be available to our students. We recognize that our schools provide healthy meals to many of our students, and we will be providing free food boxes that will contain three days of breakfast and lunches for every student in the household. All families will be able to pick up meals at their nearest CPS school beginning Tuesday, March 17, between 9 a.m and 1 p.m. daily. Lunchroom staff will prep, bag, and provide meals outside of the school building. Schools will be sending enrichment resources and materials home with students. On Monday, March 16, school-based staff will send resources home in hard copy and online format. School-based staff members will also help students remember to take supplies, personal belongings, medications, and other materials home with them. All full-time and regularly scheduled staff will be paid throughout this time. School staff will not have access to school buildings during the closure. Central and network offices will be open only for emergency personnel. Emergency personnel are considered to be those who perform essential district functions. All other central and network office staff will be asked to telework or will be excused with pay. More information for staff will be forthcoming over the weekend. Polling sites will remain at CPS locations. Deep cleaning at those schools will not begin until after the primary election. If you have questions, email email@example.com or call CPS Command Center at 773-553-KIDS (5437) until 7 p.m. tonight. We are working to update our Frequently Asked Questions, and encourage you to check here for updates later tonight. Specific guidance to principals and staff will be forthcoming. If you need help locating medical care, please reach out to the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the CPS Command Center at 773-553-KIDS (5437). If you or your child has a fever, cough, or difficulty breathing and did not have direct contact with a COVID-19 positive person, please contact your primary care provider. If you are concerned that you or your child have had direct contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19, please contact the CDPH at email@example.com or call 312-746-4835. For the most reliable information about COVID-19, please visit: Chicago Department of Public Health Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Chicago Public Schools Sincerely, Janice K. Jackson, EdD Chief Executive Officer Chicago Public Schools
Gov. Pritzker Announces Two-Week Statewide School Closure to Minimize COVID-19 Spread, Additional Economic Measures to Reduce Burden on Illinois Families Friday, March 13, 2020 – Governor, Office of the Chicago — Building on state guidance issued yesterday to promote social distancing and minimize the spread of COVID-19 in our communities, Governor JB Pritzker announced that the state of Illinois will close all schools from March 17 through March 30 and implement additional economic measures to reduce the burden on Illinois families. As of now, day care centers will remain open and will follow strict health and safety guidance. “All of these choices have cascading effects for citizens and vulnerable populations when it comes to food access, safety, childcare, and social services,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “We’ve seen what happens in places that didn’t move with urgency. I ask all of you not to hesitate to do the right thing for your family, your friends, and your community. One small step at a time, we will get through this together.” “We have seen evidence from influenza outbreaks that community mitigation strategies, such a school closures, have an effect on decreasing the severity of the outbreak,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike. “By taking these actions now, we hope to slow and limit widespread transmission of this virus, which is essential to ensuring our health care system is not overwhelmed as the disease progresses through our state. School closures will help slow the progression of the virus and we are asking for everyone’s help in reducing the spread.” “This is an unprecedented event in our lifetime, and we will get through this together,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “Our administrators and educators have shown extraordinary leadership during a time of very difficult decisions. Schools closing will affect each community differently, and I want our teachers, our students, and our families to know that the Illinois State Board of Education is open and is here to help.” SCHOOL CLOSURES Following extensive state-level analysis of coronavirus spread in various countries and the social distancing measures that were put in place, the State is taking the precautionary measure of closing all K-12 schools in the state of Illinois from March 17 through March 30. Schools with a spring break that falls outside of this window should move their spring break to within this timeframe. The Pritzker administration is working to ensure critical support functions remain available to students across the state – including their access to food, child care and safe environments. Gov. Pritzker has assured school administrators that the state will issue no penalties as a result of this closure. To provide support to school districts across the state, the Illinois State Board of Education will be fully staffed over the coming weekend and during the closure period to work through individualized issues and challenges in each district. An executive order to provide school districts flexibility during this period is forthcoming. On Thursday, the Illinois State Board of Education was granted a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to continue providing meals to students in non-group settings. Students receiving free and reduce priced breakfasts and lunches will be able to receive grab-and-go meals each day, with some districts having the ability to deliver and others offering parent pick up. The Department of Children and Family Services is working closely with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Department of Public Health to ensure emergency and preparedness plans are in place to keep youth in care and staff safe. All DCFS group homes will remain open and take extra safety precautions. ECONOMIC MEASURES The Governor has also announced new economic measures to reduce the burden on Illinois families. Gov. Pritzker and Attorney General Raoul have urged the Illinois Commerce Commission to immediately institute a moratorium on shutoffs for all utility companies across Illinois – including energy, telecommunications and water – until the state disaster proclamation has been lifted. The administration is also requesting changes to payment and collection policies to ensure Illinoisans aren’t saddled with utility debt as a result of COVID-19. The Governor is contacting the leaders of Illinois’ utility companies and urging them to maintain services for all Illinoisans, regardless of their ability to pay, during this public health crisis. The Pritzker administration is working directly with the eight major food banks across Illinois to expand services. The administration is reaching out to food manufacturers to ensure food banks are prioritized and can provide our vulnerable residents the food they need. Earlier this week, the administration filed emergency rules granting workers who are unemployed due to COVID-19 access to unemployment benefits. The rules provide relief to people who may be restricted in the type of work they can perform due to the outbreak. AVAILABILITY OF TESTING The Illinois Department of Public Health is working with state labs and hospital partners to significantly increase testing capability. At this time the administration believes testing can be sufficiently increased to ensure the minimum level of surveillance testing needed to appropriately monitor the spread of the virus. Gov. Pritzker is continuing to pressure the federal government for more tests to allow the state to deploy full surveillance testing. HEIGHTENED VIGILANCE FOR THE GENERAL PUBLIC Vulnerable populations remain a top priority as community spread continues around the state, country and globe. Elderly and immunocompromised residents should take extra caution when attending gatherings of any size and avoid exposure to large groups of people whenever possible. The state has implemented new staffing procedures and strict guidelines restricting visitors at state-operated long-term care facilities and is also working closely with private nursing home and assisted living associations on the adoption of similar guidelines. Anyone experiencing symptoms should stay home, call their doctor and plan a safe visit for examination. The general public is encouraged to take social distancing practices, including avoiding events of more than 250 people, working from home if possible and maintaining social distance (6 feet) from anyone experiencing symptoms. The Illinois Department of Public Health has a statewide COVID-19 hotline and website to answer any questions from the public or to report a suspected case: call 1-800-889-3931 or visit IDPH.illinois.gov.