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

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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.
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