While mayor has replaced only fraction of dangerous lead water lines, her CPS team is ignoring serious lead threats to CPS schoolchildren — including students with disabilities.  

  • 7:00 a.m. Monday, December 19: Press conference to demand lead testing, remediation for McClellan elementary students, staff. McClellan Elementary, 3527 S. Wallace St., Chicago.

CHICAGO — While Mayor Lightfoot continues to drag on replacing dangerous lead water pipes for hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans, educators at a South Side school that serves a large number of special education students are scrambling to force Lightfoot’s CPS team to address serious lead paint risks in their school facility.

At 7:00 a.m. on Monday, December 19, McClellan Elementary School educators and parents will hold a press conference at the school, located at 3527 S. Wallace St., with CTU and SEIU Local 73 officers, supporters and elected officials, including Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson. Educators and parents are demanding immediate lead testing for students and staff, along with immediate remediation of lead issues at the school.

According to CPS’ most recent facilities report for McClellan, from 2020, classrooms and common areas confront cracked, peeling and damaged paint from ceilings and walls. CPS told rank and file CTU educators for months that there was no lead in the chipped paint falling from the ceiling – yet has now confirmed that the falling paint has lead.

Despite the fact that one educator’s hair is falling out and staff at the school are demanding immediate lead testing for all students and staff, CPS has yet to produce a mitigation plan or timeline for repairs. “Our responsibility as public school teachers is to protect our students — but unfortunately the Mayor and her CPS team aren’t listening or addressing this threat to our health,” said teacher and CTU delegate Kelly Harmon.

McClellan serves overwhelmingly low-income Black and Brown students aged 4 and older, including many students with disabilities. While lead can harm any human, including pregnant people and their fetuses, children are particularly vulnerable to the cumulative toxin, which is distributed to organs that include the brain, liver, kidney and bones.

“The science is clear that there is no level of lead that is safe for humans — yet for months CPS has ignored the lead threat to our students and educators at McClellan,” said CTU President Stacy Davis Gates. “This would not be acceptable in Highland Park or Skokie, and it’s not acceptable for Chicago’s Black and Brown students, either. The mayor’s CPS team must address this dangerous situation immediately — with testing and remediation that puts safety for our school children and the adults who care for them front and center.”

While lead paint in and of itself is not an immediate hazard unless disturbed, any disturbance – including falling paint chips – can be extremely dangerous and must be remediated immediately to protect children and adults.

“We know this has been a problem for a long time, based on repairs earmarked for our school – including summer school, which has been canceled more than once,” said teacher Lekicia Foster. “But every time, the repairs were deprioritized and teachers who asked to have their rooms painted were denied. That’s outrageous, because lead anywhere is unacceptable everywhere.”

Rank and file CTU educators at the school have flagged the following demands to address the lead crisis at McClellan:

  • Lead tests in all rooms by December 25th;
  • Blood tests for impacted children and staff;
  • Repairs to the school’s leaking roof, which has helped drive flaking lead paint in the school;
  • Complete round of reports from CPS re any previous lead testing;
  • Inclusion of the Chicago Department of Public Health to review CPS lead contamination protocols and remediation efforts;
  • Reimbursement to staff for damaged or contaminated classroom items;
  • Immediate creation of an expedited process to review, identify, and remediate all other CPS schools with lead contamination;
  • Meeting with CEO Martinez and school staff to ensure that all demands are met.
The Chicago Teachers Union represents more than 25,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the nearly 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third-largest teachers local in the United States. For more information please visit the CTU website at www.ctulocal1.org.