Rodent-infested Bronzeville school fails inspection; CPS security, parents get into scuffle

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A scuffle broke out Thursday when a few members of a Local School Council were scheduled to walk through an elementary school on Chicago's South Side as health inspectors looked for rodents.

Alderman Pat Dowell said the school failed to pass the health inspection Thursday afternoon. Dowell said she wants classes canceled Friday.

Chicago Public Schools officials said only one representative would be allowed into Mollison Elementary School in the city's Bronzeville neighborhood, because a large group of parents in the building would have been disruptive to students.

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A few members of a Local School Council were scheduled to walk through an elementary school on Thursday morning, as health inspectors looked for rodents.

There was pushing and shoving between parents and CPS security on the school's doorstep. LSC Representative Cathy Dale was crushed on the ground between a guard's legs and she was eventually taken in an ambulance to Mercy Hospital.

"Do not push her like that. What type of man are you?" one woman said.

"Get up off of her!" another woman said.

"You had children out here getting ready for school and you beat up a black woman in front of the children here, you are a black man supposedly a protector of our community," said Former Alderman Dorothy Tillman.

Parents said Mollison has been infested with rodents for weeks. Dale went on a walk-through of the school earlier this week, after a deep clean, but she said parents still found evidence of rodents in hallways and in closets.

One mother, like other parents, said learning can't happen when children must contend with such sights as rodent babies born on classroom pillows and uncleaned rodent feces in classrooms.

"Rats having babies. CPS says it wasn't rats. The alderman says it wasn't rats. It was mice. Does it matter?" Dale said.

CPS originally promised to let at least one LSC member in the school Thursday morning to inspect a school with over 300 students.

"Why would they not let my other council members in? We are LSC council. We come together. I don't make decisions by myself. We don't never go through anything alone, never," said Yolanda Redman, of the Local Student Council.

After the skirmish Thursday morning and a police response, parents began pulling their children from the school.

"I just need them to get this together so our kids can get back to learning," said Desiree Johnson, a Mollison parent.

Later in the afternoon, parents returned to the school to hand out flyers, urging others to remove their children from the school until CPS allows local school council members to inspect the cleaning job.

Meanwhile, district officials said CPS is doing what it can to fix the infestation.

"I know the Department of Health was out there again this morning. We have had exterminators as well as double, triple cleaning by the custodians. We're hopeful that the Department of Public Health will provide a bill of good health this week," CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said.

CPS officials said the custodial team at Mollison was replaced.

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CTU's Jesse Sharkey said janitorial cuts and children eating in classrooms to blame for rat problem.

The rat problem is not exclusive to Mollison Elementary School. In recent weeks, Wells Preparatory Academy has had a rodent problem, too.

The president of the Local School Council said they took up a collection to buy a preschool teacher a vacuum when they found out droppings on the preschoolers' rug weren't being cleaned.

"There are mice droppings on the rugs and the classrooms are not being properly cleaned, we know it's the winter time and mice come in for warmth and shelter, but the amount of mice in this school year in particular is just outrageous," said Wells Local School Council President Dominique Patterson.

Last week, Chief of the CPS' Facility Operations Leslie Fowler spoke to ABC7 about Mollison and said they constantly monitor all schools for signs of rodents, and follow guidance from their pest control contractors.

"We don't have an infestation, there's not a lot of movement, we don't have interaction with students directly and the pest management company is working very closely with us to ensure that that's not happening," said Fowler.

The Chicago Teachers Union said there is a problem throughout the system that may stem from students eating meals in their classroom and fewer custodians to clean.

"The crumbs and the spills from a meal get eaten by rodents, the rodents then leave droppings, and then you have student in there the next day going to eat and so what happens is teachers are forced to buy their own cleaning supplies and clean their own classrooms," said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.
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