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Will COVID cases in Chicago schools force your child to quarantine? Here’s a handy flowchart

A student at Ombudsman Chicago South works on a Chromebook during the first day of school in August 2021.
When students and staff report cases of COVID-19, Chicago Public Schools said it will err on the side of caution when sending home quarantine notices.
Lauren Miller for Chalkbeat

When are families notified of COVID-19 cases in schools and what happens when a child gets sent home due to possible exposure?

More than a week into school reopening in Chicago, parents and educators are asking those questions and taking to social media to report incidents of quarantined classrooms at their schools.

As of Tuesday morning, Chicago Public Schools said it had not so far identified any cases of school-based transmission and that it was committed to transparency with the public, even as it could not provide updated numbers for students in quarantine. In its last public data report last Wednesday, the district said 150 children and employees were in quarantine, and 28 “actionable” adult cases and 11 student cases had been confirmed. (An “actionable” case means a person was in a building during a contagious period.)

By last Thursday, the teachers union said, more than 900 students were in quarantine, according to data shared in bargaining. The district, however, would not confirm that figure, saying that quarantine numbers are “dynamic” and change constantly.

A spokeswoman for the school district said Tuesday that Chicago Public Schools is operating “on the side of caution” when issuing quarantine orders and that sending students home is not evidence of spread of COVID-19. Entire school communities will be notified once cases are confirmed.

The district said it planned to update its public data portal at minimum every Wednesday. A state data dashboard tracks COVID-19 school outbreaks in every district but Chicago. It is updated on Fridays.

Chicago’s dashboard was last updated Sept. 1.

In the meantime, many parents and educators still have questions about when families are notified about confirmed COVID-19 cases and how quarantine works exactly.

Here we break it down. Still have questions? Has your family gotten a notice? We want to hear how learning at home is going. Tell us at

A flowchart explaining how to know whether or not Chicago public schools will require your child to quarantine. If you receive an alert about a COVID-19 case at your school and your child was not in close contact with the case, your child can go to school. If your child was in close contact with the case, it will depend on their vaccination status and whether or not they are exhibiting symptoms.

The COVID-19 outbreak is changing our daily reality

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