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'It's significantly worse since Aramark took over...' Parents and alderman protest at Sutherland Elementary School as icy sidewalks and filthy lunchroom display Aramark privatization results...

How dangerous is it for Chicago's children, now that morning temperatures are below zero (at least at wind chills) and the afternoons are little better? Has Chicago's privatization mania -- continued with a vengeance under Forrest Claypool, the fourth "CEO" of CPS since Rahm Emanuel's May 2011 inauguration -- improved things in the schools for the children and staffs at winter arrived, Chicago-style, by January 11, 2016? It's more dangerous now than it was two years ago, when the now-disgraced former CEO of CPS, Barbara Byrd Bennett was smart enough to close schools when the cold presented physical dangers to children and staff.

Chicago's Sutherland Elementary School (above, on a nice Spring day) has become dangerous because the privatization of CPS custodial services make it impossible for the principal to get the schools sidewalks and walks cleared before the rush of children and staff in the morning. (WBEZ photo). But the dangers are just as bad in 2016 as they were in 2014, but Forrest Claypool couldn't care less. In fact, Claypools policies have added to the dangers facing the children. One example is in my own home: our sixth grader son, Josh, was walking two blocks (and two-tenths of a mile) from the bus that brings him home every day from O.A. Thorp, where he attended school. Thanks to Claypool's changes in busing, Josh now has to walk six-tenths of a mile. His bus stop was changed from Portage Park Elementary School to Gary Elementary School by Claypool, who claimed, without verifying and "facts," that the changes would save CPS supposedly $5 million.

Like so much of what Claypool has been saying and doing, both the financial claims and the realities demonstrate that the latest CEO, like his predecessors, is talking bullshit.

And with the weather dangerous to human beings (especially poor children who often don't have all-weather boots or even decent shoes), protests are taking place. The most dramatic, so far, was on January 12, when parents, students and the alderman at Sutherland School in the 19th Ward went public about the dangers.

Chicago's DNA Info news service, which is providing more and more local neighborhood news that the major daily papers miss, has an extensive article about the dangerous and disgusting results of the Chicago Board of Education's decision to privatize both meal and custodial services to Aramark, the huge corporation with ties to major politicians including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. "It's significantly worse since Aramark took over..." on parent from Sutherland Elementary School said after volunteering in the lunchroom. The recent snow and cold are also an issue now, since Aramark's privatization program has left the school without enough custodial workers.

DNA INFO STORY:

Icy Sidewalks Spark Outrage Over Janitorial Services at Sutherland

By Howard Ludwig | January 12, 2016 8:41am @howardaludwig

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Students are released at the end of the day on Monday at Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly. Cleanliness has become an issue since icy sidewalks last Monday sparked a debate over janitorial service provider Aramark. Students are released at the end of the day on Monday at Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly. Cleanliness has become an issue since icy sidewalks last Monday sparked a debate over janitorial service provider Aramark. View Full Caption DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

BEVERLY Icy sidewalks proved to be a launching pad for parents upset about the janitorial services at Sutherland Elementary School.

Students returned from winter break last Monday to find most of the sidewalks hadn't been shoveled or were cleared with only narrow paths, said Colleen Loehr, of Beverly.

Loehr volunteers as a traffic moderator on Monday mornings and Tuesday afternoons at the school at 10015 S. Leavitt St. in Beverly. Her sons, Ryan, 9, and William, 7, are third- and first-graders.

She's stationed at the kiss-and-go drop-off at the northwest corner of the school on Monday mornings. As she was unloading children and their backpacks last week, kids were slipping and falling. Concerned parents stopped, causing frustration by hurried parents waiting behind.

Howard Ludwig DNAinfo Reporter

Describe the grossest conditions you've ever seen in an elementary school.

3

VOICE YOUR OPINION ON NHSQ! "Three or four kids fell, and two more were crying," Loehr said.

Word spread quickly on the school's Facebook page that shoveling the sidewalk is the responsibility of the Sutherland's janitorial staff, which was handed over to Aramark this year.

Students are released at the end of the day on Monday at Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly. Cleanliness has become an issue since icy sidewalks last Monday sparked a debate over janitorial service provider Aramark. Students are released at the end of the day on Monday at Sutherland Elementary School in Beverly. Cleanliness has become an issue since icy sidewalks last Monday sparked a debate over janitorial service provider Aramark. View Full Caption DNAinfo/Howard A. Ludwig

The news sparked outrage, as parents vented not only about the unsafe sidewalks but also about the unkempt conditions at the school of 697 students in the heart of Beverly.

Parent volunteers reported seeing mice and rats in the cafeteria, trash strewed in the classrooms and horrendous smells as well as gross conditions in the bathrooms.

Melanie Howe said on Monday that she and her husband volunteered to teach a program to fifth-graders on Dec. 7. She arrived before the students had entered the building and was greeted with a filthy scene.

"Garbage cans were full. The floor was covered in spills wet and dry, large and small. Condiment packets were squashed open and dried to the floor. Half eaten food was also on the floor and tables," said Howe on Monday.

The outcry led to parents demanding action from Principal Eric Steinmiller, Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) and Aramark. Steinmiller would not comment and a call to Willie Porter, a district manager for Aramark, was not immediately returned Tuesday morning.

But on Monday, Michael Passman, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools issued a written statement on the situation.

"CPS and Aramark have been working closely with Sutherland staff to ensure the school provides students with a safe and healthy learning environment. A thorough plan of action has been developed to address concerns, and the school will receive additional custodial support on weekends to improve school cleanliness," Passman said.

Still, O'Shea said this wasn't the first time he's heard about issues involving cleanliness at Sutherland. He met with Aramark officials along with parents and school administrators at the school on Nov. 2 to discuss the problem.

"Aramark had conceded that yes they'd had some issues," O'Shea said on Friday.

The company vowed to clean up its act, and O'Shea had assumed progress had been made until the icy sidewalks brought a fresh batch of issues to the forefront. As a result, he took to Facebook encouraging parents to attend Sutherland's Local School Council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 19.

"The LSC there is very dedicated," O'Shea said on Friday. "Aramark needs to do better."

Loehr plans to attend the meetings and is encouraging others to do so as well. She said the sidewalks weren't cleared by the end of the school day on Monday, but the paths were free of snow and ice on Tuesday and have been good since.

Still, she said conditions in the school are troubling, adding that her two sons refuse to put their food on the sticky lunch tables at school. Instead, they use their lunch boxes as placemats.

Brian Roache, of Beverly, has a kindergartner and third-grader at Sutherland. He frequently volunteers and said he, too, has seen mice in the school. He said some days are worse than others and doesn't blame the custodians for the situation.

"It's gotten significantly worse since Aramark has taken over," Roache said.



Comments:

January 13, 2016 at 12:40 PM

By: Jean Schwab

Dirty Schools

Moos Elementary has changed breakfast time from 8:00AM to 7:40AM to reduce food being eaten in classrooms which brings mice. The students all must come early and eat in the two lunchrooms. At 7:0055, they go to their classrooms.

January 14, 2016 at 11:49 AM

By: Jo-Anne Cairo

Snow clean pathways and cleanliness of classrooms.

November 23rd I subbed at Scammon, I was sent to cover a class in the Mobile unit, the ramp to get to the door was ice, no attempt to shovel or salt placed on the ramp, I had witness earlier that day students trying to walk up and down the ramp. When I tried to go up the ramp I fell. Where are the safety precautions for all using the ramp.

I am in many different elementary schools, in the rooms they have these large rugs for students to do a variety of activities, ie sit, sleep, play ...are they being cleaned regularly, I haven't seen any vacuums.

January 14, 2016 at 11:49 AM

By: Jo-Anne Cairo

Snow clean pathways and cleanliness of classrooms.

November 23rd I subbed at Scammon, I was sent to cover a class in the Mobile unit, the ramp to get to the door was ice, no attempt to shovel or salt placed on the ramp, I had witness earlier that day students trying to walk up and down the ramp. When I tried to go up the ramp I fell. Where are the safety precautions for all using the ramp.

I am in many different elementary schools, in the rooms they have these large rugs for students to do a variety of activities, ie sit, sleep, play ...are they being cleaned regularly, I haven't seen any vacuums.

January 14, 2016 at 12:11 PM

By: Peg Andreski

Aramark is a huge problem.

Last year I was tutoring at a CPS school that was having major cleanliness issues. I had asked the administrator if it was possible to get the floor cleaned after a student had a biological accident and it took two days for the floor to be cleaned. I spoke with the administrator and he told me Aramark is impossible to deal with but he would send an email describing the incident to Aramark. Later that day the administrator requested I help compose a response to the retort Aramark had sent. He showed me a chain of emails between Aramark and the school.

The cleaning company was overtly hostile and and unprofessional. Aramark showed little concern for quality of service or the threat posed by an unsanitary floor. The privatizing of school is clearly a disaster for CPS.

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