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CPS to test for lead in water at 28 elementary schools

Forrest Claypool resigned Friday as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools announced Thursday the list of 28 elementary schools being tested for lead, a measure CEO Forrest Claypool insisted was being taken “out of an abundance of caution.”

However, principals at several of those schools told the Chicago Sun-Times they learned of the testing from the press, and weren’t sure what to tell parents.

Claypool said the sudden lead testing performed at the schools in a citywide pilot was not sparked by any particular complaint but rather the national attention on the recent water scandal in Flint, Michigan, which focused on the dangers of lead pipes.

“As a result of that, it behooves us all to exercise that caution,” Claypool said at a gathering of ministers on the West Side.

Echoing the language from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s press release announcing the testing, he said that “this is not because of any indication. It’s out of an abundance of caution.”

“We will quickly learn if anything needs to be done or hopefully not done,” he said.

Schools were chosen according to their age; whether they have a kitchen where meals are prepared; and the presence of pipes in need of repairs. Test results, conducted by Oakbrook Terrace-based Suburban Labs, are supposed to be available in mid-May. Federal and state law apparently don’t require testing for lead in school water pipes.

Several principals, who did not have district permission to speak, said they had not been notified by CPS of the testing. Though the district typically sends letters home about such developments, the principals said they had been given no guidance on how to respond to parent questions this time.

CPS could not immediately provide any official communications to affected schools or families.

According to the city, about 80 percent of city buildings are still connected to water mains by lead pipes, which were banned in 1986.

The schools are:

  • Burr, 1621 W. Wabansia
  • Canty, 3740 N. Panama
  • Coonley, 4046 N. Leavitt
  • Crown, 2128 S. St. Louis
  • De Diego, 1313 N. Claremont
  • Dett, 2131 W. Monroe
  • Ericson, 3600 W. 5th
  • Evers, 9811 S. Lowe
  • Hefferan, 4409 W. Wilcox
  • Mahalia Jackson, 917 W. 88th
  • Jamieson, 5650 N. Mozart
  • Jungman, 1746 S. Miller
  • Kellman, 3030 W. Arthrington
  • Kozminski, 936 E. 54th
  • Lenart, 8101 S. LaSalle
  • Mays, 6656 S. Normal
  • Neil, 8555 S. Michigan
  • Nicholson, 6006 S. Peoria
  • Parker, 6800 S. Stewart
  • Pritzker, 2009 W. Schiller St.
  • Saucedo/Telpochcalli, 2832 W. 24th
  • South Shore ES, 1415 E. 70th
  • Stagg, 7424 S. Morgan
  • Sumner, 4320 W. 5th
  • Tanner, 7350 S. Evans
  • Harold Washington ES, 9130 S. University
  • Webster, 4055 W. Arthrington
  • Westcott, 409 W. 80th