Chicago Public Schools Respond to Student Walkout

Chicago Public Schools Respond to Student Walkout


Chicago Public Schools Respond to Student Walkout (Chicago, IL) – Chicago Public Schools (CPS) makes the health and safety of its students and staff its top priority.  Today, students from various schools participated in a walkout that came out of an organized demonstration around COVID-19 school safety measures and student voice. The action included approximately 200 students who protested downtown at CPS headquarters.

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CPS remains committed to fostering learning environments that allow students to respectfully deliberate issues with evidence and an open mind – and safely participate in civic action. It is appropriate in classes or special school events to create an environment where students of all viewpoints feel that they can express themselves in a safe and respectful environment.

The District is proud to have acted on recommendations from community members, including teachers and parents, to strategically invest federal funds to support students and staff across our District in the fight against COVID-19 and the subsequent academic and social-emotional consequences related to the pandemic and remote learning.

The District has provided robust COVID-19 safety measures, including testing and vaccines, as well as new technology and intranet services, academic programming, mental health supports and programs, free meal distribution when schools were out of session, and more. (Please see background below for many specific details.)

As a District, we want to ensure that we always listen to the opinions and feedback of our future leaders and will continue to work with students on this very important matter.



Safety protocols have been put in place to protect our students and staff.  All of our protocols can be found here along with access to our vaccination sites and COVID-19 testing facilities.


As part of our commitment to transparency, we publicize the district’s COVID-19 spending on our website for the public and stakeholders to review. Please view our full expenditure report at CPS documents the impact of COVID-19 throughout the District to keep the public informed about the impact of the pandemic on our schools and communities. District infection, quarantine, testing, and vaccination rates are all available to the public here.

Over the past two years, CPS has invested federal funds into our COVID-19 mitigation strategies, including testing and vaccinations as well as academic and wellness programming. Some of the safety measures include:

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  • New ventilation systems in schools

  • Air filters in every classroom where we can check the air quality of every classroom on a weekly basis

  • Published air quality reports on our website that drill down to the classroom level

  • Distribution of thousands of free high-quality masks so that every staff member and student can be masked up; going forward, we will be providing KN95 masks to staff and students who want them

  • Masks for students and staff

  • Plastic partitions to keep individuals safe

  • Regular school cleaning and deep cleaning as needed

  • Additional staffing for care rooms

  • Additional staffing for contact tracing

  • The ability to have a school safety team composed of all parts of the school community so that if any COVID-related issue arises, it can be addressed quickly.


CPS has provided masks and other PPE to staff and students since the onset of the pandemic. The District will provide KN95 masks for staff and student use over the course of the next two to three weeks, in addition to the PPE already provided.

  • As part of our mitigation efforts, CPS will provide KN95 masks for staff and student use by the last week of January, in addition to the PPE already provided to schools for use by staff according to the specific role they play. As of the fiscal year 2022, the District has spent more than $13 million on PPE, including the KN95 masks.

  • The District has ordered 600,000 child-sized and 600,000 adult-sized KN95 masks.

  • In FY 22 the District has spent $210,000 on the 600,000 adult masks and $480,000 on the 600,000 child-sized KN95 masks.

  • In the same period (FY22 to date),$1.5 million has been spent on more than 700,00 adult cloth masks and more than $800,000  on child-size cloth masks.

  • CPS will order an additional four million KN95 masks at the end of February; two million for adults and two million for children.

  • To date, $734 million has been designated to cover academic and operational investments to address student re-engagement and school re-openings, including one-time costs related to technology, PPE, building supplies, emergency cleaning, testing, and vaccination efforts.  

  • Expenditures as of Nov. 2021 are listed on the CPS website.


Testing students and staff for COVID-19 is one valuable mitigation strategy. CPS has already provided testing on a massive scale: over half a million completed in 2021; over 350K in SY 21-22 thus far. We conducted more than 30,000 in-school tests per week before break and we are confident we can increase that number. To date, District-wide, over 100,000 staff and students have now provided their consent for a free weekly test in our free well-established on-site CPS COVID-19 Testing Program.

  • Our existing program for COVID-19 testing, which provides students and staff at every school with free testing every week, will continue. Please visit to register your student for weekly testing.

  • CPS will test a minimum of 10 percent of students at each school every week. Consent must be on file before any testing is completed.

  • In schools with a high rate of COVID-19 cases, additional testing will be provided to students and staff who do not have symptoms.

  • Students who have symptoms of COVID-19 can receive a free test at school with the consent of their parent or guardian.

  • If an entire school transitions to remote learning, staff and students without symptoms will be offered COVID-19 tests at school within five days


CPS will continue to transition or “flip” to remote learning at the classroom and school-level, but not at the District-level. CPS is not authorized to provide District wide remote learning. In Illinois we have said our students and school districts should be in person with a few exceptions. These various options are outlined on page 5 in the August 2021 Illinois State Board of Education guidance.)

  • None of the exceptions to in-person learning existed on Jan. 4 when CTU voted to go remote.  Thus, CPS flipping to District wide remote during the work stoppage those days would not have counted toward our minimum 176 state-required pupil attendance days and would have extended the school year.

  • School districts in Illinois do not have the unilateral authority to take an “adaptive pause’ and return to remote or distance learning. The State Board of Education, very intentionally in May of 2021, issued a proclamation and guidance to ensure students would return to in-person learning. An adaptive pause, per the guidance, can only be taken in collaboration with local health authorities. Meanwhile, the CDC, IDPH and CDPH have all confirmed that schools are not major sources of COVID spread and CDPH did not determine that an adaptive pause was necessary.

The CPS Tactical Team will meet with CTU daily to allow CTU to raise specific school concerns.

CPS will continue to temporarily transition individual classrooms to remote learning when a class has a positive COVID-19 case. Decisions to transition an entire school to remote learning are made on a school-by-school basis. The criteria are either:

  • 30 percent or more of a school’s Classroom Teachers are absent for two consecutive days because of documented positive employee COVID-19 cases/quarantines and the school-wide teacher absences rate due to documented positive COVID-19 cases/quarantines remains at or above 25 percent with the use of substitutes or internal staff;

  • OR During a COVID-19 surge, more than 40 percent of the school’s student population has been instructed to isolate/quarantine by OSHW or CDPH; or during other periods of community transmission, more than 50 percent of the school’s student population has been instructed to isolate/quarantine by OSHW or CDPH.

  •  If either of these conditions is met, then the Building Level Safety Committee will meet and decide by majority vote whether to transition to remote or remain in person.


The District’s fiscal year (FY) investments are part of the overall $2.6 billion in ESSER Relief funding which will be used between FY2021 through FY 2024 in COVID-19 related emergency federal funding through ESSER II and ESSER III, as follows:

The two-year initiative includes charter schools’ and will invest more than $631 million to address students’ social-emotional needs, accelerate learning, and prepare students for success beyond the pandemic.

  • $ 438 million in funding for student support, academic interventions, behavioral and mental health teams in every school, and upgraded technology for curriculum delivery;

  • $ 193 million in discretionary funds for schools to be used to provide targeted student support based on individual school needs;

  • $ 734 million in operational investments to address student re-engagement and school re-openings, covering one-time costs related to technology, PPE, building supplies, emergency cleaning, vaccination efforts, and other expenditures that may arise as CPS transitions back to a full return to school.

  • $ 447 million school-based instructional positions to support teacher and school-support personnel costs as it relates to the transition back to in-person learning, stability and continuity in scheduling, programming and expansion of high-quality academic programming.

  • $678 million programmatic investments to support continued priority programmatic investment in schools, including charters:

    • Equity grants to schools experiencing low or declining enrollment;

    • Additional nursing, social work and case management positions District-wide;

    • Further investment in special education teachers and paraprofessionals;

    • Expansion of new academic programs;

    • Development of early childhood classrooms;

    • Expansion of Skyline, the state-of-the-art curriculum Initiative.

  • $100 million in capital investments to support projects focused on renovating and replacing mechanical systems that improve air quality.


In the event that students want to participate in civic action, CPS advises school administrators to work with student organizers to designate an appropriate, safe space for students to convene for a group activity. CPS allows for students to participate in planned civic actions, including student-led walkouts or protests. Students who do not wish to participate in a protest, walkout or planned group activity, or whose views are counter to those of a walkout/protest, should be provided with a safe space to convene and engage in meaningful student-led activities, if desired.

Chicago Public Schools Respond to Student Walkout

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