Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Chicago public schools are canceling classes so children can get vaccinated

What could be better than a four-day weekend of surprises? How about life-saving vaccinations?

Chicago public school students will get both next week when the district closes schools on Friday for what it calls Vaccine Awareness Day. Students already have a day off Thursday for Veterans Day, so it’s a long weekend.

Instead of classes, four secondary schools will house regional vaccination dispensaries. Anyone eligible for the vaccine and now children 5 years of age or older is advised to stay or get vaccinated elsewhere.

Chicago City Employees will also receive two hours of paid leave on Friday to take the kids for vaccinations.

Chicago Public Schools, with over 340,000 students in 636 schools, is the third largest school district in the United States after New York and Los Angeles. With this outreach, school district leaders are hoping investing in a day off now can prevent future pandemic-related school closures.

“It is rare that we make changes to the school calendar late, but we see it as an important investment for the future of this school year and for the health and well-being of our students, staff and families,” wrote the school’s general director, Pedro Martinez. in a letter to families announcing the day off. “I hope you seriously consider vaccinating your children on Vaccine Awareness Day.”

A healthcare professional prepares to administer a dose of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a student during a vaccination at London High School in Wheeling, Illinois, Friday, June 11, 2021.

An analysis by the WBEZ in Chicago found that racial and economic differences are reflected in vaccination rates in the city. For example, in the relatively affluent neighborhood of Lincoln Park, 89% of eligible children are vaccinated. But in the Englewood community in south Chicago, the rate is only 16%.

“My mom and my stepfather, they worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and they each have two jobs and they are mostly busy all the time,” Yobani Trinidad, a high school sophomore, told NPR. Trinidad was denied a vaccination clinic because he was not accompanied by his parents.

The teachers union welcomed the vaccine promotion in a statement Thursday and called on everyone who is eligible, including parents, teachers and staff, to get vaccinated. The union also urged the area “Lighten the burden” on working families by opening more than four vaccination sites.

“The district must establish a vaccination clinic in every school, organize extracurricular activities and provide significant incentives for families,” union president Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “Claiming that ‘everything is okay’ while reducing the safety of other people’s children is not a way to build trust.”

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