More Chicago Public Schools buildings are passing cleanliness inspections now than failing them, officials said Wednesday, chalking up the success potentially to a high alert created after the Chicago Sun-Times revealed high rates of failure.
About 200 more schools now have been inspected, with results available for about 150 of them, said Arnie Rivera, who’s now leading CPS’ effort to make sure that the schools serviced by two private vendors are being cleaned. Unlike an earlier round of unannounced inspections, school principals and building managers generally knew they’d be under scrutiny this spring — and they fear the negative press, he said.
“Pass rates on those has significantly increased to close to 70 percent,” Rivera told school board members at their meeting Wednesday. “While encouraging, as I stated at the board meeting last month, a lot of it could be simply human behavior, in light of the reporters that were there.”
CPS quietly conducted surprise “blitz” cleanliness inspections at 125 schools whose janitorial services are overseen by the private company Aramark; 91 of them got failing marks, as the Sun-Times previously reported.
Inspectors checked off fines as if they worked for the city’s health department — up to $38,000 in potential violations at one school, with the highest fines tallied in schools serving low-income children of color. CPS never notified families or Local School Councils at the schools with problems such as filthy food service equipment, smelly bathrooms and rodent droppings.
CPS outsourced some of its facilities work to Aramark and to SodexoMAGIC several years ago and on July 1 is poised to hand over a lot more responsibility and $427 million more in contracts to both companies.
District officials have yet to provide further details of the new inspections, nor will it release re-inspection reports from the 91 schools that originally failed under the state’s public records act.
CEO Janice Jackson also suggested that capital problems that hadn’t been fixed also contributed to the cleanliness problems. CPS has yet to set its final capital budget and won’t publicly say which schools or projects will land on its eventual list. Meanwhile, it’s agreed to hire 100 more custodians, plus 100 more for summer deep-cleaning.
On Wednesday, a prominent name added his voice to the families and staffers fed up with building conditions, again chiding the board whose members he counted among his “friends and some of you even mentors” for their lack of oversight on behalf of children.
Ken Bennett, father of Chance the Rapper and aide to three Chicago mayors and to Barack Obama as senator and president, began his impassioned speech on behalf of children with special needs.
“It’s people of color, it is brown and it is black people in the city of Chicago that are carrying the burden of these policies,” he said. “Just look at the policies, look at what’s going on.”
Then he turned to the facilities problems.
“I don’t want to read any more articles about rodents in schools — some schools,” Bennett said as perennial public commenter George Blakemore interjected, “Black schools.”
“It’s not easy to get up here and talk to friends in this manner, but it’s only a friend that will tell you what you need to hear,” Bennett said. “I continue to have respect, but you have the ability to change and to set the future and send it in a positive direction.”