CPS Expands Testing After School Shows High Levels of Lead

After an elementary school tested positive for lead, the district announced Friday that they would expand testing

After launching a pilot program to test lead levels in Chicago Public Schools, the district announced Friday that it would expand testing after lead levels were detected at some schools.

"We’re going to test every single water outlet in the district and we’re going to do it on an expedited basis and make any adjustments we might occur," said CPS CEO Forrest Claypool.

CPS received test results from the first 32 schools tested within the last month Thursday night. The results show that 236 samples were taken and 218 detected no lead. Of the 32 tested schools, 25 had no traces of lead, six had levels of lead below EPA standards and one school had levels of lead exceeding EPA standards.

Tanner Elementary School was found to have three water fountains with lead in exceeding amounts. The impacted fountains were turned off and there will be additional diagnostic testing at the school, officials said. 

Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health Dr. Julie Morita called the incident “an isolated situation.”

“We are not Flint, Michigan, and what CPS and the Department of Water Management we have been doing is out of an abundance of caution," she said. "We know the vast majority of children who are lead poisoned in the city of Chicago are lead poisoned as a result of lead-based paint."

“If parents are concerned, they can contact their health care provider,” Morita added.

A letter was sent out to Tanner families Friday outlining the test results.

"CPS is working with CPS Facilities Management and the Chicago Department of Water Management (DWM) to determine the precise cause of the elevated lead levels, and will make any necessary remediations that will provide a long-term solution," the letter reads.

But parents expressed concern and uncertainty over the results. 

"I'm very upset right about now," said parent Edwin Barnes. 

"My kids go there every day and drink the water," added Rayal Blackman. "And my kids, at this age, they drink a lot of fountain water."

"I just want to know why there would be lead in a Chicago public school system?" asked Kareem El, whose son is in kindergarten.

There is a meeting planned at Tanner next Tuesday for parents to address concerns following the test results.

A total of 250 schools will now be tested. These are schools that have been in place before 1986 that could have lead piping.

Claypool said the lead testing was not linked to complaints but was rather sparked by the Flint, Michigan water crisis, which focused on the dangers of lead pipes, according to the Sun-Times.

The mayor's office echoed Claypoool's sentiment at the time.

“While CPS has no indication that there is any lead present in school water, CPS has launched a pilot program to develop a standard approach for testing across the district,” a city statement released in April said.

Testing initially began last month at the CPS schools chosen based on criteria including the age of the school, its students and the condition of pipes, officials said. About 80 percent of city buildings are connected to water mains by lead pipes, which were banned in 1986, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The report also noted that schools were also chosen based on whether they have a kitchen where meals are prepared and whether they have pipes in need of repairs.

List of schools in the pilot:





De Diego





Mahalia Jackson












South Shore ES




Harold Washington ES



Schools that paid for testing:





Contact Us