Emanuel says new SE Side school to ease overcrowding

September 15, 2013 (CHICAGO)

While the mayor has closed dozens of schools, there are just as many that are severely overcrowded, including two on the Southeast Side.

Despite budget cuts and a broke school district, the mayor has somehow found money to build.

Working the crowd in a rare Sunday night appearance, Emanuel announced the construction of a brand new neighborhood school on the Southeast Side.

"Since the early 90's people have been talking about adding a new school and we've been deferring and deferring. Well, the days of deferring are over," Emanuel said.

The school will be built in an effort to relieve overcrowding at two Far Southeast Side elementary schools, including Gallistel Language Academy, where the mayor came and left before parents and teachers had a chance ask questions.

"He wasn't here to answer our questions, he left before ask the things we wanted to ask," said teacher Andrea Porth

With a cash strapped school district, there is the question about where is the money will from to pay for a new school, one that 10th Ward Alderman John Pope says could cost up to $60 million.

"I'm going to defer to the mayor's office on that. There's been a lot of work done over the last couple of years to identify additional money," Pope said.

Ald. Pope, parents, and teachers have complained for years about the overcrowding. Besides modular classrooms, rented space at a nearby Catholic high school and a bingo hall for a gym are being used and many say the class sizes are still too big.

"In my previous year, in 5th grade, there was almost 40 students, and then this year I think there's 35," said student Victoria Jimenez.

Unfortunately, the new school is not going to absorb all of Gallistel's students, so teachers and parents are asking for improvements at their own school, one that has had very few renovations in its 100-year-plus history.

"Our children are eating in a boiler room, and we would like for them to have a nice, decent place for lunch," said Marianne Bly.

"It doesn't matter if you take them somewhere else, you still have the facility here that is not in compliance to teach a child," said parent Elena Rios.

Ald. Pope and the mayor's office said they will be making capital improvements to the existing schools, although the alderman said the priority is still to build a new school.

The mayor's office said there will be some TIF funds used for the school, but would not comment further on the funding.

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