With 4,109 enrolled students — second highest in CPS — Taft HS welcomes return of in-person learning for all students, but quarantines for exposed students new reality
by BRIAN NADIG
Students at Taft High School are glad to be back on campus, but some are wondering if it is just a matter of time before the pandemic forces a return to remote learning for all students, according to Taft Local School Council student representative Amelia Manno.
“(Students) have joked about when the school will be closed down again,” Manno said at the council’s Sept. 14 meeting. She added that students are “skeptical” that the school can remain open as more exposures are being reported.
This school year Taft has had eight confirmed COVID-19 cases through Sept. 11, according to the Chicago Public Schools. In addition, 550 students have been identified as close contacts and been told to quarantine, but in some instances students may have returned early because it was learned that the student had been fully vaccinated at the time of the exposure.
Within CPS, Taft has the second highest enrollment, with a total of 4,109 students at its varsity and freshman campuses.
Between Aug. 29 and Sept. 11 there have been 245 “actionable cases” of COVID-10 throughout the school system, according to CPS.
“Right now the biggest thing is … get the kids vaccinated,” Taft principal Mark Grishaber said. (Information on the number of vaccinated Taft students was not immediately available.)
Grishaber told the LSC that exposed students are instructed to quarantine but that a day or two later some are allowed to return if they are fully vaccinated and not showing symptoms. He added that the school system is working on eliminating the lag time so that vaccinated students do not have to miss any in-person class time.
Grishaber said that the school almost lost 1,000 students to quarantine due to an exposure in the cafeteria but that contact tracing brought the number down to about 50 or 60. On its Website, CPS states that a close contact is anyone within six feet of a COVID-19-positive person for 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period, with or without a mask, based on CDC guidelines.
It also was reported at the meeting that students are being allowed outside during lunch at the freshman campus, 4071 N. Oak Park Ave., but not at the varsity campus, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., because its cafeteria is on the second floor, preventing easy access to a secured outdoor area.
Grishaber said that once the school can fill its security guard openings, it may work on a plan to allow students to go outside at the varsity campus.