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When students and staff report cases of COVID-19, Chicago Public Schools said it will err on the side of caution when sending home quarantine notices.

When are families notified of COVID-19 cases in schools and what happens when a child gets sent home due to possible exposure? 

More than a week into school reopening in Chicago, parents and educators are asking those questions and taking to social media to report incidents of quarantined classrooms at their schools.

As of morning the morning of Sept. 7, Chicago Public Schools said it had not so far identified any cases of school-based transmission and that it was committed to transparency with the public, even as it could not provide updated numbers for students in quarantine. In its last public data report on Wednesday, Sept. 1, the district said 150 children and employees were in quarantine, and 28 “actionable” adult cases and 11 student cases had been confirmed. (An “actionable” case means a person was in a building during a contagious period.)

By Thursday, Sept 2, the teachers union said more than 900 students were in quarantine, according to data shared in bargaining. The district, however, would not confirm that figure, saying that quarantine numbers are “dynamic” and change constantly.

A spokeswoman for the school district said on Sept. 7 that Chicago Public Schools is operating “on the side of caution” when issuing quarantine orders and that sending students home is not evidence of spread of COVID-19. Entire school communities will be notified once cases are confirmed.

The district said it planned to update its public data portal at minimum every Wednesday. A state data dashboard tracks COVID-19 school outbreaks in every district but Chicago. It is updated on Fridays.

Chicago’s dashboard was last updated Sept. 1. 

In the meantime, many parents and educators still have questions about when families are notified about confirmed COVID-19 cases and how quarantine works exactly. 

Here we break it down. Still have questions? Write us at chicago.tips@chalkbeat.org.

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Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.

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