The Illinois Occupational Health and Safety Administration is asking Chicago Public Schools officials to show they’ve cleaned up Eberhart Elementary School, which was left so dirty by custodial contractors that the Southwest Side school’s own staff picked up mops and brooms to do the work themselves.
Eberhart, 3400 W. 65th Pl., cited “deplorable conditions, especially the bathrooms and classrooms since there is no or very little janitorial staff” in a complaint to OSHA, the state agency overseeing worker safety, a letter obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times shows.
“We request that you investigate and control any hazardous conditions,” Illinois OSHA officials wrote in a Nov. 1 letter to CPS CEO Pedro Martinez. “If we do not receive a satisfactory response from you by November 16, 2021, indicating that corrective action has been taken or that no hazard exists and why, an Illinois OSHA inspection may be conducted.”
Illinois OSHA spokesman Paul Cicchini won’t say whether CPS has complied, saying he can’t discuss an open case.
A CPS spokesman says the school system asked for and has gotten an extension till the end of November to respond to OSHA and says conditions “have improved.”
More janitors have been sent to clean the school after an Oct. 29 Sun-Times report revealed filthy conditions that included bathrooms with no soap or toilet paper, according to Daniel Morales-Doyle of Eberhart’s Local School Council. He says that has resulted in some improvement but that there are still problems getting a substitute janitor if one calls in sick.
Eberhart’s complaint to OSHA coincided with the Sun-Times report detailing how staff members — from security guards to top school administrators — had been cleaning the school themselves so kids wouldn’t have to face filthy conditions that also included rodent droppings and cockroaches in classrooms and bathrooms. Janitors who took time off for long-term medical leave weren’t replaced for weeks.
Since then, CPS janitors have spoken out about the staffing problems and having to buy their own cleaning supplies. And CPS facilities chief Clarence Carson was ousted from that $175,000-a-year job after being hired three years ago in response to Sun-Times reports on widespread dirty schools then.
Reports of dirty conditions at Eberhart and other schools this fall have come as CPS has given new deals to Jones Lang LaSalle to manage school facilities and to Aramark to expand from having responsibility for cleaning some schools to now handling all of them.
On Wednesday, Martinez told the Chicago Board of Education some schools are now getting extra cleaning done after school hours.
“We need to have that extra scrutiny to make sure that we do not allow for those filthy buildings to continue,” school board member Lucino Sotelo said.
HOW CONDITIONS AT EBERHART WERE
- Dirty stairs at Eberhart. Provided
- Paper towels overflow in the bathrooms. Provided
- A dirty toilet at Eberhart Elementary School. Provided
- With custodians out on medical leave and not replaced, Eberhart Elementary School security guards take out garbage from the lunchroom. Provided
- Eberhart Elementary School hasn’t been properly cleaned all year. CPS and the private management companies it hired to handle janitorial services didn’t send enough custodians. So the school community rolled up their sleeves and have been cleaning the school themselves. Provided
- A garbage can is left full with trash on the ground at Eberhart. Provided
- Dirty footprints on the floor at Eberhart. Provided