What’s better than a surprise four-day weekend? A potentially life-saving vaccine is what you could get?
The students in Chicago Public Schools will get both next week, when the district closes schools on Friday for what it’s calling Vaccination Awareness Day. Students already have the Veterans Day holiday off on Thursday, so it’s a long weekend.
Four high schools in the region will be hosting regional vaccination clinics, instead of classes. Anyone eligible for the vaccine ― that now includes children 5 years of age and older ― is encouraged to stop by, or to get the shot elsewhere.
Chicago employees will also receiveTwo hours paid vacation Friday for parents who want to bring their children to be vaccinated.
There are 636 schools and more than 340,000 pupils. Chicago Public SchoolsAfter Los Angeles and New York, it is America’s third largest school district. Because of this reach, leaders in school districts hope that by investing in day-to-day planning now they can avoid future closures due to pandemic-related events.
“It is rare that we make a late change to the school calendar, but we see this as an important investment in the future of this school year and the health and wellbeing of our students, staff, and families,” schools CEO Pedro Martinez wrote in a letterFamilies announcing the holiday. “I hope you will strongly consider getting your children vaccinated on Vaccination Awareness Day.”
Many areas of the district have been woefully undervaccinated. Data obtainedThe Chicago Teachers Union revealed this week that only 47% of public school students eligible for vaccination are currently vaccinated. This compares to 58% in the citywide population.
This article is about analysis by WBEZ Chicago found racial disparities and economic divides are reflected in the city’s vaccination rates. For example, in Lincoln Park, where 89% of children who are eligible for vaccinations are covered, this is a relatively wealthy neighborhood. Englewood is in south Chicago, where the vaccination rate is only 16%.
“My mom and my stepdad, they’ve been working 24/7 and they each have two jobs and they’re basically busy all the time,” Yobany Trinidad, a high school sophomore, told the NPR station. Trinidad was turned away from a vaccine clinic because he wasn’t accompanied by a parent.
The teachers’ union welcomed the vaccine push in a statement Thursday and encouraged everyone eligible, including parents, educators and staff, to get the shot. Union also urged the district to “lessen the burden” on working families by opening more than just four vaccine sites.
“The district should set up a vaccination clinic at every school, organize after-school events and provide significant incentives for families,” union President Jesse Sharkey said in a statement. “Claiming that ‘everything is fine’ while short-changing the safety of other people’s children is no way to build trust.”