In public schools located in three mostly Black, low-income Chicago neighborhoods on the West Side — Austin, West Garfield Park and East Garfield Park — only about one in every 10 students is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
It is one of several pockets on the South and West sides that are struggling to get students vaccinated. Meanwhile, in some schools in wealthier parts of town on the North Side, such as North Center, Lakeview and Lincoln Park, more than two-thirds of students are fully vaccinated, new vaccination data obtained by WBEZ show.
Vaccinations not only protect children from COVID-19, but also from being quarantined and missing class. Only unvaccinated students exposed to the virus are required to quarantine
As of Friday evening, Chicago Public Schools reported 21,747 students in quarantine, the school district’s highest number yet.
New vaccination data, obtained through a public records request, is the first to capture school-level vaccination rates in elementary schools. Five- to 11-year-olds only became eligible for vaccinations in early November. The state data, which is provided to CPS twice a month and is matched with CPS enrollment information, captures vaccinations through Jan. 18.
Data highlights include:
About 23% of elementary school students in CPS are fully vaccinated. Another 10% of students have had a single shot.
Meanwhile, vaccination rates among Chicago public high school students have stayed virtually the same over the past few months. Currently, about 53% are fully vaccinated. Another 5% of students have received one shot. As of Dec. 10, about 51% of high school students were fully vaccinated, according to an analysis by Chalkbeat Chicago.
At elementary schools with majority Asian, white or diverse student bodies, an average of 44% of students are fully vaccinated. At majority Latino elementary schools, it is 24% and at majority Black elementary schools, it is 11%.
At high schools with majority Asian, white or diverse student bodies, an average of 75% of students are fully vaccinated. At majority Latino schools, it’s 61%. At majority Black schools the vaccination rate is 35%.
CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said he is frustrated there has not been more growth in the vaccination rates among high school students.
“It is still moving too slow,” he said last week. “I love our student voice. I love our student activism. I wish we could convince more students to get vaccinated, especially at the student level.”
Martinez on Friday said the district plans to reduce the quarantine period for cases of COVID-19 from 10 days to 5 days, following CDC and state recommendations. He said CPS would share a timeline for making the change this week.
Martinez said he is encouraged by the increase in vaccinations among elementary school-aged children. He noted that there’s been an uptick as vaccine requirements have gone into effect in the city. As of Jan. 3, proof of vaccination is required in restaurants, gyms, movie theaters, sports arenas and other indoor venues.
CPS relies on city, state, county and community vaccination programs to get students vaccinated. The district offers vaccines at four high schools in different parts of the city and has mobile units rotating among schools. Martinez also noted that the city will come to homes to vaccinate families.
Elementary schools are following some of the same trend lines as high schools and communities. In areas with low vaccination rates among adults, schools are also showing low vaccination rates among children.
But there are some outliers. Among them are two schools with relatively low vaccination rates in communities that boast high rates.
Dirksen Elementary near O’Hare International Airport had only 9% of its students fully vaccinated and Mount Greenwood Elementary on the Far Southwest Side had only 22% of its students with two shots. Mount Greenwood, which has one of the highest percentage of white students in the school district, is one of the only elementary schools that offered in-person instruction during the standoff earlier this month between the teachers union and school district over COVID-19 safety.
Meanwhile, there are several test-in elementary and high schools that serve majority Black students that have much higher vaccination rates than the average school serving mostly Black students. These schools include Lindblom High School, Westinghouse College Prep, McDade Elementary Classical School and Lenart Regional Gifted Center.