When parents at Sutherland Elementary School in Chicago contacted NBC5 Investigates with their concerns of possible radiation from a large cellular antenna mounted on the smokestack there, it raised the question: How many other public schools in the Chicago area allow these types of antennas on their property?
So NBC5 Investigates filed 409 separate Freedom of Information Act requests with public school districts across eleven counties in the Chicago area -- plus five additional counties in northwest Indiana -- asking for all leases and agreements each district currently has with telecommunications providers for cell antennas and towers installed on the property of any school in that district.
A total of 367 of those districts responded to our FOIA request; 42 districts did not. Of the districts that responded, we found school cell towers at a total of 139 schools in Chicago, the surrounding suburbs, and northwest Indiana.
The Chicago Public School system has by far the most schools that lease space for cell towers. Significantly, in Chicago, most of the schools with cell towers are elementary schools, where children may attend for as many as nine years, and where the cell towers are mounted close to – or on -- the school building itself.
Conversely, in suburban areas, the large majority of schools with cell towers are high schools, and the towers are more often erected further from the school itself – at the far end of the school’s football field, example.
Click on any icon on the map to see details about each school and its cell tower, including the approximate yearly income generated by the school’s lease with the telecom company, for the antenna.
You can also check for a specific school on the accompanying list, which is sorted alphabetically by public school district, and then by the schools within that district.