CPS Teachers Don ‘Haz-Mat' Suits to Bring Attention to School Cleanliness Issues

Gordon Mayer says his children made him aware of ongoing problems a Kenwood Academy.

"I knew from my own children that there were climate problems where the temperature would spike high or sometimes it would be cold," he said.

Chicago Teachers Union members dressed Friday in what they called haz-mat suits to draw attention to what they are calling a “cleanliness crisis” at Kenwood and other Chicago Public Schools.

History teacher Michael Shea says administrators at Kenwood are buying mops and cleaning supplies and coming in on weekends to keep up with maintenance at the school on the on the city’s South Side.

"If this is happening in one of the best high schools in Chicago, what is happening in the neighborhood schools?" he asked.

"We have rodents, roaches, mold, mildew, asbestos," Michael Bronton, of the CTU, said. "In other words, filthy, unsanitary, unhealthy schools."

These problems are blamed by the union on the companies hired to take over the janitorial duties at CPS.

"While Aramark gets filthy rich--hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts--schools remain filthy," the CTU's Jackson Potter said.

In its own inspections a few months ago, the district visited 125 schools and found 90 of them didn’t meet its own standards.

Arnie Rivera, chief operating officer at CPS, says that’s unacceptable.

"These are schools that, you know, require better for our students," Rivera said.

This week, CPS agreed to a new contract with its vendors and the service employees international union that will add an additional 200 janitors for a summer deep clean, with 100 of them staying on for the school year.

“We appreciate the intervention of CPS and look forward to a strong new partnership in, which schools are clean and healthy places for students to learn, grow and thrive,” Service Employees International Union 1, which represents CPS custodians, said in a statement.

But the extra janitors will cost extra money, about $7 million worth. Money that will have to be included in next year’s budget

And the teachers say city money should be spent on schools, and not trying to attract companies like Amazon.

"And we certainly don’t need $2 billion going to Jeff Bezos to fund his clean rooms for his space program when we are just trying to get clean classroom," Shea said.

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