Chicago Public Schools students returning to school in August 2021. Credit: Chicago Public Schools/Facebook

ARCHER HEIGHTS — One of the city’s largest charter school networks has closed its campus near Midway Airport after three people tested positive for COVID-19, school and Chicago Teachers Union leaders said this week.

Acero Schools shuttered its Zizumbo campus, 4248 W. 47th St., after the school confirmed three COVID-19 cases in three separate classrooms, Acero spokesperson Helena Stangle said in a statement.

Zizumbo, which has 600 students, will close for in-person learning for two weeks in accordance with a memorandum of understanding with the teacher’s union. The agreement with Acero also calls for up-to-date reporting, quarantine, vaccination events and social distancing.

Acero told parents they could not track the original source of the infections.

“We are writing to inform you that there have been three school community member(s) diagnosed with COVID-19 at your scholar(s) school. Because there is no clear indication of the origin of the confirmed cases and because the number of cases affects three individuals or more within three or more classrooms over a fourteen day period, we are following the recommendation by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) to temporarily close school for two weeks in order to prevent further spread within the community.” 

Acero Schools

Students who can provide proof of vaccination and are not sick can continue coming to school, although most are too young to be vaccinated. Students have Chromebooks and remote learning plans, and can continue receiving breakfast and lunch while school is closed, Stangle said. 

In-person classes will resume for everyone Sept. 28, Stangle said.

“While Zizumbo Elementary is a part of a tri-located campus, each school is located on a separate floor with separate points of entry for scholars,” Stangle said in a statement. “Additionally, Acero Schools deploys robust COVID-19 mitigation practices including universal mask-wearing, social distancing whenever possible, hygienic protocols, air filtration and purification devices, facilities cleaning and disinfecting practices, along with surveillance testing and contact tracing, to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.”

This is the district’s first school-wide shutdown of the fall, which began Aug. 30. Union and CPS have clashed on whether the district’s COVID-19 mitigation procedures are enough to keep students, teachers and families safe.

There have been confirmed COVID-19 cases at other schools. More than 400 people were exposed at Lane Tech College Prep within the first few days of the school year. Other high schools also have had dozens of people exposed, including Englewood STEM, Washington and Senn. Parents have pushed the district to reinstate remote learning and have even kept their kids out of school in protest.

“Families are understandably concerned, because they confront the real-life consequences of this virus,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said. “Our members are doing the very best they can in their schools, but we need the protection we had last winter and spring if we are truly serious about reducing harm.”

The closure takes effect just as Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Pedro Martinez, the San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent, as CPS’ new CEO.

Martinez who worked under former CEO Arne Duncan, will be Chicago’s seventh schools chief in the last decade. His predecessor, Janice Jackson, stepped down from the post in June.

A graduate of Benito Juarez High School, Martinez is the first Latino to be permanently appointed as CEO.

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