Kits were overflowing out of drop-box bins on Tuesday — the day tests were supposed to be returned by families. Credit: Provided/CTU

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools is giving families more time to submit at-home COVID-19 test results after pictures circulated on social media showing drop-off sites overflowing with boxes of completed tests this week.

CPS sent around 150,000 COVID-19 tests to more than 300 schools in neighborhoods hardest hit by the pandemic and experiencing lower vaccination rates. Students were asked to take the tests Tuesday, and parents were told to bring them to the nearest FedEx drop box the same day.

CPS said these at-home tests were “voluntary,” but “strongly encouraged,” as the city battles its worst-ever COVID-19 surge driven largely by the Omicron variant. CPS is scheduled to return to class Jan. 3.

On the Tuesday deadline, the Chicago Teachers Union and others posted photos of those dropoff boxes spilling over with tests, raising questions about how families could safely return the tests, and ensure they are sent to a lab.

“These are two FedEx Drop Boxes on the Southwest Side, sites where CPS families are expected to leave completed COVID testing kits,” union leaders wrote. “Because boxes are overflowing, families are scrambling to find safe and secure places to leave their kits,” union leaders wrote.

In a separate social media post, CTU officials said the drop-off complications weren’t the fault of the FedEx employees, but rather city officials.

‘”[FedEx employees] were unprepared because this plan by the mayor and CPS was not well-thought-out, and no one prepared them,” CTU wrote.

In response to the criticism, district leaders added a drop-off location at the Garfield Ridge Library branch, 6348 S Archer Ave. The new deadline to return the tests is 5 p.m. Thursday.

“We are encouraged by the number of families who have submitted test kits so far,” district leaders said in a statement Wednesday.

The confusion over the at-home tests is speaks to a larger issue within the district, according to the teachers union, which has clashed with district leaders about how students can safely return to in-person classes.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez previously said the district is prepared to switch classrooms in the city’s least vaccinated areas back to remote learning if cases continue to rise, but is not planning a districtwide shutdown, saying it negatively affects students’ mental health and learning.

On Tuesday, teachers at Park Manor Elementary School, 7037 S. Rhodes Ave., said many students were in quarantine when the at-home tests were sent out, meaning many students didn’t receive their kits. CPS officials previously said families who didn’t get kits through the district could go to the CPS website for information on testing sites for children.

Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.

Click here to support Block Club with a tax-deductible donation.