Students “Slumped Over Desks” in Hot Schools

Even in the midst of this week's heat wave, many students are still in the classrooms learning.

That is, they're trying. 

Without air conditioning in nearly 75 percent of Chicago Public Schools, including most of the 238 schools being used for summer classes, one parent said kids are "baking" in the buildings.

"These children are inside the classrooms, slumped over their desks.  That's how hot it is," said Louvenia Hood, the community representative on William Penn Elementary's school council board.

A group of angry parents on Thursday gathered outside the magnet school in the city's North Lawndale neighborhood to express their anger over what they say are ineffective climate controls present in many of the public schools.

"If one school has one air conditioning, then all schools should have air conditioning. It's not fair," said parent Cheryl Fox, whose two children, a 14-year-old girl and an 8-year old boy, attend the school.

She holds particular concern for her son, who deals with a minor case of asthma.

"Sitting in a couple of the classrooms, I don't even see how the children could take it.  I really don't," she said.

CPS officials this week said they delivered about 1,500 fans to schools.  They urged parents to dress their children in light, loose-fitting clothing and send them to school with a reusable water bottles.

But the parents outside Penn Elementary said CPS promised air conditioning last summer and still hasn't delivered.  When some air conditioners were delivered, school officials wouldn't allow them to be installed, they said.

Hood suspects she knows why.

"It seems like the new administration at CPS is carrying out what the old the board at the Chicago Public Schools administration was doing -- a deceptive attack on children of color.  [It's] just another tactic to give these children a setup to failure," she said.

Some students taking the Illinois Standard Achievement Test were given a bit of a reprieve when officials allowed them to take the test in air-conditioned offices, Hood said. But for many, the conditions were unbearable.

At Ernst Prussing Elementary, on the city's northwest side, mobile units with air conditioning sat outside the school but weren't allowed to be used to by students. School officials said they weren't certified for use or had been torn apart for cleaning.

"It stinks in there," said one student of his classroom.  "It's hotter in school than it is out here."

Roughly 56,000 students are attending summer classes this year.

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