Dirty schools? CPS principals say new service a real mess

Ravi Baichwal Image
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
Dirty schools?
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CPS principals said a move to private janitorial services has left some schools downright dirty.

September 17, 2014 (WLS) -- CPS principals said a move to private janitorial services has left some schools downright dirty.

Principal Dave Belanger said the buildup of filth at Hanson Park Elementary School, where 1,400 students are enrolled, is unacceptable.

"It's not what our kids deserve, it's not what our kids deserve," Belanger said.

Part of the problem is the choice of cleaning supplies, Belanger and custodians said. There aren't many old-fashioned mops and buckets at Hanson Park since Aramark won a $260 million contract to cleanup Chicago's public schools. They've been replaced with micro-fiber pads and cleaning solutions.

"This would be a little bit like snow-blowing the Eisenhower with an 18-inch snowblower," Belanger said.

It's the same at Hearst Elementary School, Principal Teresa Chrobak-Prince said.

"This milk was spilled on the wall since I got here last year as principal," Chrobak-Prince said.

The Aramark contract was supposed to free principals from overseeing custodial staff. Principals are quick to point out they don't blame the custodians for this mess.

"They won't allow them to use basic soap, water and bleach. It's some chemical product that you spray on that they have some license to purchase from some corporation," Principal Troy Lariviere, Blaine Elementary, said.

"Aramark's job is to clean the schools so our principals and our teachers can focus on their fundamental responsibility: education. They will either live up to that contract and clean up the schools, or they can clean out their desks and get out," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

"You're firing custodians because you're trying to save money. You're using a sub-standard product and towels and toilet paper because you're trying to save money. Who are you really ripping off here when you're making your profit? You're really ripping off the children," Principal Katherine Konopasek, Stevenson Elementary School, said.

CPS officials said Aramark is sending out 50 additional custodians at the company's expense to help at the schools, while Aramark said it is setting up meetings with principals.

Aramark released a statement: "We have been training all CPS custodial staff on new equipment, using more efficient, environmentally friendly cleaning techniques, and are confident that this new program will deliver the results and savings we promised the CPS administration and the Mayor."