CPS charter school shuts down for 2 weeks because of COVID-19 cases

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This article was written by Nader Issa of the Chicago Sun Times on September 14, 2021.

A Southwest Side charter school is reverting to remote learning for two weeks after finding three confirmed COVID-19 cases in three different classrooms.

Acero Schools, one of Chicago Public Schools’ largest charter operators, closed its Zizumbo campus in the Archer Heights community Tuesday to meet the terms of its reopening agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union.

“Because there is no clear indication of the origin of the confirmed cases and because the number of cases affects three individuals or more within three or more classrooms over a fourteen day period, we are following the recommendation by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to temporarily close school for two weeks in order to prevent further spread within the community,” school administrators wrote in an email to families Monday evening.

Students received laptops and remote learning plans and have access to breakfast and lunch until in-person classes resume Sept. 28.

Zizumbo is on the first floor of its building, which houses Acero Torres elementary school on the second floor and Acero Garcia high school on the third floor.

An Acero spokesperson said the other two schools won’t revert to remote learning because each one has its own entrance, and administrators were confident their mitigation protocols would prevent other infections throughout the building.

Zizumbo enrolls 570 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, the vast majority of whom are not yet eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

The CTU pointed to the protocols it developed with Acero as a model for CPS to follow at its district-run schools.

“Acero has an agreement in place with our union that holds charter management accountable — an agreement that came via collaboration and a focus on the safety of all stakeholders,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement.

The union said its memorandum of understanding with Acero Zizumbo called for up-to-date case reporting, regular quarantining, multiple vaccination events and regular testing.

CTU’s agreement with Acero is separate from one being negotiated with CPS that would cover non-charter schools. CTU has still not reached an agreement with the district on safety protocols for those schools, which enroll 290,000 students.