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CPS has no immediate plans to reverse change in COVID-19 reporting

students walk in a hallway
Chicago Public Schools is being criticized for changing how it reports COVID-19 cases in schools and not disclosing the change.

Chicago Public Schools on Monday said it is not immediately backing away from a decision to only publicly share the number of COVID-19 cases at individual schools that were confirmed by contact tracers. This reporting change, made over winter break, is being sharply criticized for giving parents a less accurate and timely picture of what is happening in their children’s schools.

Until winter break, the district reported all cases on its COVID-19 web tracker, including students who tested positive in the district’s COVID surveillance program and those who self-reported. The school district on Monday said it was evaluating whether to go back to posting all reported cases and expects to have a timeline for making that decision soon.

CPS said on Monday that neither CPS CEO Pedro Martinez nor Dr. Allison Arwady, who runs the city’s public health department, were involved in making the call to change how cases were reported at the school level. The school district also never “formally” told the Chicago Department of Public Health it was making the change, though CPS’ chief health officer reports to CPDH as well as to CPS.

Instead, the decision was made solely by a CPS “cross functional team,” including people from Informational Technology and from the Office of Student Health and Wellness. When asked why city public health officials were not consulted, the school district said, “This was a decision about how we choose to share school-level data on the CPS website.”