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CPS parents, students gear up for school year

Ana Correa plays chalk with her son Bylan at the Chicago Public Schools back-to-school celebration on Monday. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Reese Carey can’t wait start third grade at Norman Bridge Elementary.

“I’m so happy school is starting,” the 8-year-old said Monday. “I’m excited for school projects, getting to see my friends and art class. School projects are always fun and [so is] getting to see your friends. I like the fun parts of school, so I kind of want to be a teacher when I grow up.”

Although Reese Carey said she’s ready for school, her mother, Crystal Carey, worries her teachers might not be.

While Crystal and Reese Carey have spent the week getting ready for the school year, many CPS teachers have been gearing up for a possible Chicago Teachers Union strike over a new contract.

“I’m pro-union, so the teachers have to fight for what they need to fight for, but it will be tough on us,” Crystal Carey said. “I work five days a week, so it will be tough to find someone to watch Reese.”

Carey and her daughter were one of a few hundred CPS families who celebrated back-to-school season on Monday outside Albany Park Elementary School. Parents and their students enjoyed free school supplies, access to immunizations, food and games to generate excitement and awareness for the school year, which begins Sept. 6.

Jacqueline Ezell with her 9-year-old granddaughter, Calvyana Walker, at the CPS back-to-school party on Monday. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times
Jacqueline Ezell with her 9-year-old granddaughter, Calvyana Walker, at the CPS back-to-school party on Monday. | Jacob Wittich/Sun-Times

Mayor Rahm Emanuel went to Bouchet Math and Science Academy Elementary School, 7355 S. Jeffery, to announce Monday that by spring 2017 the final 61 schools without air-conditioning units will have them.

“This investment in air conditioning will allow the teacher to teach, the student to learn and focus on what the teacher and the textbook has to say—and not on what the temperature reading in the room is,” Emanuel said.

Emanuel mandated the five-year air conditioning project in 2013. He said Monday the project would finish a year ahead of schedule and pegged the cost of installing window air-conditioners in every CPS classroom at $135 million.

The promise for air conditioning was a reversal from the mayor’s stance in 2012 when he dismissed CTU President Karen Lewis’ concerns about sweltering schools during the teachers strike of that year.

Air conditioning can’t come soon enough for 9-year-old Calvyana Walker, who’ll be a fourth-grader at Mary Gage Peterson Elementary.

Walker said her classrooms get “really hot,” making it hard to focus on schoolwork.

“It’s about time they got air conditioning,” said Walker’s grandmother, Jacqueline Ezell, at the celebration. “When it’s hot and they’ve got the windows open with hot air blowing in, it makes the kids miserable.”

Addressing the crowd of CPS students and parents at the back-to-school party, CPS CEO Forrest Claypool promised the district would continue to build on schools this year to “make them better and more livable.” He also stressed the importance of first-day attendance.

CPS announced Aug. 4 it would host 13 back-to-school celebrations during August. Seven more celebrations will be held:

Ashburn

Aug. 23, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Bogan, 3939 W. 79th St.

Hermosa/Belmont Cragin

Aug. 24, 2 to 5 p.m.

Kelvyn Park, 4343 W. Wrightwood Ave.

West Roseland/Pullman

Aug. 25, 2 to 5 p.m.

Fenger, 11220 S. Wallace St.

Brighton Park

Aug. 26, 10 a.m to 1 p.m.

Kelly, 4136 S. California Ave.

Woodlawn

Aug. 29, 9 a.m. to noon

Hyde Park, 6220 S. Stony Island Ave.

Austin/Belmont Cragin

Aug. 30, 2 to 5 p.m.

Prosser, 2148 N. Long Ave.

Englewood

Aug. 31, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Parker, 6800 S. Stewart Ave.

Contributing: Fran Spielman