Parents in an elementary school in Chicago brought  cleaning supplies to their children’s school, because of the filthy conditions in the bathrooms. The leadership of Chicago Public Schools, controlled directly by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, privatized custodial services last year, and at that time the principals complained that the schools were getting dirtier by the day because of the loss of their custodians.

 

Would Mayor Emanuel tolerate these conditions in his own children’s school? Would any member of the Chicago Board of Education? What do you think?

 

 

On Saturday, a handful of pre-kindergarten parents packed yellow rubber gloves and spray bottles of vinegar and baking soda solution and headed to Suder Montessori Elementary Magnet School, 2022 W. Washington Blvd., on the Near West Side, where they spent the morning cleaning their children’s washrooms.

 

The parents felt they didn’t have a choice: Upon entering the bathrooms, they found pools of day-old urine on the floor, feces smeared on the walls and clogged, stinking toilet bowls. In the past few weeks, the school had an E. coli outbreak and more than half of the kindergarten students missed school because of various diseases, including a stomach bug, diarrhea or vomiting, said Michelle Burgess, head of the school’s parent-teacher association.

 

“These are preschoolers. They go to the bathroom and miss. The boys play in the urinals. And sometimes can’t get to the toilet fast enough. It’s understandable,” said Angela Morales, the parent of two children who attend the school. “But they need to clean. We can’t have our kids be in this filth.”

 

Parents claim the unsanitary bathroom conditions, overflowing garbage cans and soiled napping cots are the result of inadequate custodial care following the Chicago Board of Education’s decision last spring to award multi-million dollar custodial management contracts to two firms, Aramark and SodexoMAGIC.

 

The decision to privatize much of the custodial work was made in light of “daunting financial challenges” faced by the district, CPS officials have said. Surveys conducted by principals and parent organizations at the beginning of the school year aired numerous complaints of filthy conditions inside some school buildings after the custodial changes.

 

Aramark and Chicago Public School officials could not immediately be reached for comment Saturday.

 

Questions about school cleanliness grew further in early September when district officials announced close to 480 subcontracted custodians who work in CPS buildings would be laid off by Aramark.

 

CPS officials in March signed a minimum three-year contract worth up to $260 million with Aramark. SodexoMAGIC also received a minimum three-year, up to $80 million contract for facility upkeep earlier this year.

 

The reduced contracts, Suder parents say, have led to the school operating with two full-time custodians and one part-time custodian as opposed to operating with four full-time custodians as it had in previous years. Parents claim that since the reductions, janitors have done a poor job maintaining regular cleaning duties and, for the past three months, have mopped the floor with water—and nothing else.