Mayor Emanuel closes a beach because of 'heat danger' but ignores dangerous heat levels in thousands of Chicago public school classrooms affecting hundreds of thousands of children and thousands of teachers and other staff... Chicago teachers and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) take action against unsa

By the middle of the first full week of schools in June 2011, dozens of Chicago teachers were trying to contact Substance, the Chicago Teachers Union, and others about the dangerous levels of heat in the public school classrooms across the city. Union contracts and federal safety laws require that many jobs shut down when heat levels surpass a certain level, but Chicago's public schools, most of which are not air conditioned, are supposed to continue to function even as dangerous heat levels are reached and surpassed.

Heat above 80 degrees can be dangerous to some people, including small children and those with special conditions.

Thermometer in a classroom at a Chicago elementary school on June 7, 2011. The recording of more than 90 degrees was made before noon. Substance photo.Heat above 90 degrees is dangerous to almost everyone who has not been conditioned to it.

By June 8, 2011, teachers were sharing heat stories and forwarding them to Substance. At the same time, officials of the Chicago Teachers Union were looking into the problems and preparing to draft both legislation and contract language on heat, according to union sources.

One of the ironies of the present administration of Mayor Rahm Emanuel is that Emanuel told the public that the North Avenue Beach on the city's north side was closed on Memorial Day because the excessive heat had caused a heat emergency. (The truth was that gangs organized into flash mobs were cruising the beach, according to police and other sources). No such emergency was called as conditions in the city's public school classrooms became dangerous for teachers and children.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's press schedule for June 9, 2011, indicated that he was making three public appearances, all of them in air conditioned locations (Northwestern Hospital; Harold Washington College; and the Chicago Cultural Center). The quarter million dollar CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean Claude Brizard had issued no statement on the heat dangers as of June 8, 2011.

By June 8, 2011, Chicago Teachers Union members had begun documenting the problems faced by teachers and students in their buildings.

According to the CTU website:

Here are a couple of reports:

The thermometer in the Lincoln Park High School classroom of Jen Johnson showed a temperate of 94 degrees while students were supposed to be taking final exams. Chicago Teachers Union photo.Jen Johnson, Lincoln Park High School: "Yesterday [June 7, 2011] was sweltering and by 1:20 today it was 93 degrees in my classroom where students are taking their final exams. The drinking fountain water is warm and we only have two juice machines. Students are sweating, unhappy and can’t concentrate. Is this the best learning and testing environment? Air conditioning is not optional. This gives students another reason to not come to school. If you can find money for standardized tests, you can find money for air conditioners."

The picture here was taken in Johnson's classroom at Lincoln Park High School in Chicago, according to the CTU.

Erik Kutz, delegate at Richards Academy, reports that the combination of non-working windows and non-existent shades, coupled with a run on drinking water that empties vending machines before noon has made teaching and learning impossible. “These students have worked hard all year, and these are the conditions for their final exams. We’re going to Track E. Without air conditioning, learning time will be lost, not gained.”


Any teacher or delegates can file the following grievance at the 3-1 level (principal) on the spot:

This is a grievance filed under Article 3 and Article 44-9 of the Agreement.

Even some schools that supposedly have air conditioning are facing heat problems because the Chicago Board of Education has cut back school maintenance in most inner city schools and because CPS has also cut back on engineering and custodial staffs who once maintained the complex heating and air conditioning systems installed in the schools. Above, the North Grand High School on Chicago's northwest side at its opening in 2006. Less than a decade after the school was opened, the air conditioning was failing in parts of the building, where temperatures in June 2011 reached more than 90 degrees. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Article 44-9 states: "Teachers and other bargaining unit members shall work under safe and healthful conditions."

For the past several days, heat at ____________ (school) have caused unsafe and unhealthful conditions at several locations in the building. This constitutes a violation of the Agreement insofar at it applies to teachers and other staff, but is also a serious danger to the children at _____ school, many of whom face health issues such as: _________, _________, and _________.

We ask that you resolve this grievance by immediately providing air conditioning for all areas of this building where students and teachers are required to work, or that students, teachers and others staff be congregated in those areas where air conditioning is available during heat emergencies such as this.

We will be glad to provide you with documentation from City, State and other officials on how heat dangers can be documented.

We will also be documenting the extent of these problems as they impact both staff and our students, since the health and safety of the children constitute of "work situation" as defined in Article 3 of the Agreement.


________ (Teacher)

Signed by the following (with documentation of problems):

Name of Staff member Location (room) Temperature Time of Temperature Reading

1. ___________________________ _______________ __________ _______________ ____________


June 9, 2011 at 8:27 AM

By: John Kugler

Child endangerment

Why aren't district officials held ACCOUNTABLE for this negligent lack of planning and action? Fire them and charge them with child endangerment. Rahm you said no more business as usual. Do something instead of covering everything up. Stop being a chump. Do your job!

June 10, 2011 at 1:35 PM

By: Bob Busch


The Oven

The old Simeon was a badly converted Kroger Warehouse. It had three floors

with each flight of stairs 20 steps not the normal 13. The lone elevator was so bad

It actually dripped hydraulic oil on you head. The building was also unique in another way.

Each floor was a one foot thick concrete slab supported by a three foot in diameter

Concrete pillar every twenty feet on center, hence the classrooms were twenty by forty feet.

In the beginning all the windows were hopper windows. Now the library, where I worked

had a special feature. The entire concrete slab was covered by eighteen inches of cork

Insulation, and leveled by grout and tiled. The heat on a hot day was numbing. You were in an oven

Without air conditioning. The windows faced northeast which were of no use when the wind

was blowing out.

The last day of June 1988 was a Saturday; it was also the hottest day in Chicago History

And because of the strike in Sept 1987 all the faculty had to work. I am truly surprised no

Body died in that oven I still remember it to this day, but it was only the worst day in a horrible


Add your own comment (all fields are necessary)

Substance readers:

You must give your first name and last name under "Name" when you post a comment at We are not operating a blog and do not allow anonymous or pseudonymous comments. Our readers deserve to know who is commenting, just as they deserve to know the source of our news reports and analysis.

Please respect this, and also provide us with an accurate e-mail address.

Thank you,

The Editors of Substance

Your Name

Your Email

What's your comment about?

Your Comment

Please answer this to prove you're not a robot:

2 + 4 =