By TONIA HILL
Students, parents, and faculty from Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., met with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Board of Education, 42 W. Madison St., Wednesday, June 28, to urge them to take action to improve the condition of their school.
The coalition came before the board to demand a thorough cleaning of all vents and ducts at Kenwood before school starts in the fall, fully staffed engineering and custodial departments, a full asbestos abatement, and complete replacement of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system [HVAC].
“The HVAC system is a system that’s not working, we need to be on the 2018 capital budget for an HVAC replacement,” said Ciara Evans, senior at Kenwood and class president. “The system is from 1969, and it said that it could have a life for 20 years which means we will need a whole new one by our 50th anniversary for Kenwood.”
Evans said that there is a broken pump that causes temperatures at the school to vary. She said that sometimes there is not cold air circulating at all and the third floor is the hottest area of the school.
“They tested one room, and it was 100 degrees,” Evans said. “You’re lucky if your teacher buys a fan.”
Today, the board agreed to take the first step in addressing issues at the school.
First on the list was adding an extra engineer and more custodians. Additionally, an air quality test will be conducted in mid-July according to Alfonso de Hoyos y Acosta, chief administrative officer at CPS.
In August the HVAC coil and HVAC chiller pumps will also be replaced.
“A third engineer will be added to the school, July 3,” said de Hoyos y Acosta. “We are going to reallocate some of the custodians that we have on the evening shift to the day shift starting at noon to allow additional coverage at peak time for the start of the next school year.”
“Students and staff have become accustomed to filthy classrooms and sickening bathrooms and locker rooms,” said Amaya Lorick, Kenwood senior and student council president. “We do not have enough custodians to properly clean our Kenwood and Canter [Kenwood Academic Center] buildings.”
Two full-time custodians are assigned to clean the building, which is made up of 1,500 students and 100 staff members during school hours.
Lorick also mentioned the stench from bathrooms at the school that is often out of order without flush buttons.
The group launched an online petition, and hashtag #CPScleanupthemess and met with Ald. Sophia King (4th), last week to discuss their concerns at a meet and greet at the Silver Room.
When King visited the school on June 27, Evans said King saw a mouse.
“We have a huge mice issue,” Lorick said. “They make regular appearances in classrooms. They show up in our locker rooms along with roaches making students want to avoid using the facilities. Our lack of custodians leaves our teachers and administration to do a job that is not theirs.”
In a previous article in the April 12 issue of the Herald, Kenwood called on the district to provide additional custodial services after the school failed two health inspections in March.
The Kenwood community blamed CPS’s failure to provide appropriate custodial resources as a cause of the failed checks.
Problems in the inspection listed according to public records included mice droppings in numerous areas of the school.
More frequent pest control visits will also be conducted as well as a plan of action to address water leakage. Other items for improvement include interior painting.
Lorick said that the condition of the school would not be where it is today without school officials who help clean the school.
Dr. Gregory Jones, principal at Kenwood, said in a previous interview with the Herald that faculty at the school volunteered to conduct walkthroughs at the school on Saturdays.
They document issues on a clipboard and take pictures, which typically takes an hour. Jones then passes on the information to their Aramark contact. Also, Jones has had to use money from the school’s budget to purchase additional cleaning supplies.
Today was a seen as a success to Lorick, Evans and the Kenwood community. They still plan to hold CPS accountable to address the issues that they agreed to on Wednesday.
“We are going to be on them,” Lorick said. “We are a part of a coalition, and we meet every week. At our meeting tomorrow we’re going to make sure someone is sending out an email. We’re going to stay on it because we need this.”
Evans said she “couldn’t be happier” with the results of the meeting.
“They came to talk to us and answered our questions, and it looked like our voices were heard,” Evans said. “It does look like they’ll get the job done and we will keep our hopes high.”