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Facilities, Cleanliness and Safety

Take a moment to fill out this short survey on school cleanliness – and feel free to upload photos or videos of facilities problems at your school.


CPS releases a “utilization” report in the last week of each year. They have all demonstrated how little the district’s management changes. Having experienced the record-breaking, racist closing of almost 50 schools in 2013, many educators, parents and students worry about what CPS potentially plans to do to to their school communities.

The space utilization formula–like many other punitive policies and formulas CPS has devised over the years–powerfully demonstrates how data can be manipulated and weaponized against our schools. The formula has changed dramatically over the decades, as it’s been reshaped to close, co-locate or build new schools in based on which neighborhoods the city’s real estate developers covet. This ever-changing formula couldn’t provide transparency or enable authentic planning even if CPS or the mayor wanted that. It’s designed to foist a racist “hunger games” agenda of “school choice” onto our children.

However we do have an opportunity here to both fight back against the faulty utilization formula and fight for the schools our students deserve!

Every school that does not agree with the “ideal capacity” that CPS claims your school can hold, should do a thorough inventory of how your building is used and calculate the capacity that makes more sense. This involves several steps:

  1. Review the data in the utilization rate file that CPS posted on the facilities website and carefully check all of the numbers. The formula is calculated as Total # of Classrooms (CR) x 30 (students) – cluster and PreK students and classrooms. PE, multipurpose, art, etc. rooms are not included.
  2. Review the room use data that CPS posts on your school’s profile page on the CPS website. This data can be found at the end of the facility assessment report (for example: http://schoolreports.cps.edu/Assessment_PDF_Detail_2015/2210D.pdf). Check each of the rooms on the report and note how CPS has categorized them and what the square footage is. Any classroom less than 600 square feet is considered a “small” classroom and they apply 0.5 to the formula (thus 15 students).
  3. Make sure you note all of the rooms that are being used by community partners or any other outside organizations!
  4. If your school does not have a clinician room yet (new contract win!), identify what room will be dedicated for that.
  5. If your school has decaying mobiles, subtract those classrooms! No one should be using them anyway!

It’s possible that with your new analysis, you still find your school “under-utilized” (defined as less than 70%, based on total students divided by “ideal capacity”). Obviously using 30 students in the formula when our classrooms are supposed to be capped at 28 does not make any sense. Besides that, now is the time to get creative with your school community and think about how you want to use your school building to best serve your students. Do you want to become a Sustainable Community School? Do you want space for parent mentors, adult education, music programs, a new library, a health clinic?

CPS is required by a new law that was enacted in August 2018 to help schools explore creative ways to boost their enrollment and implement joint use agreements for available space:

(k) On or before December 1, 2018, the Board shall adopt a policy to address under-enrolled schools. The policy must contain a list of potential interventions to address schools with declining enrollment, including, but not limited to, action by the district to: (i) create a request for proposals for joint use of the school with an intergovernmental rental or other outside entity rental, (ii) except for a charter school, cease any potential plans for school expansion that may negatively impact enrollment at the under-enrolled school, (iii) redraft attendance boundaries to maximize enrollment of additional students, or (iv) work with under-enrolled schools to identify opportunities to increase enrollment and lower the costs of occupancy through joint use agreements.

(Source: P.A. 99-531, eff. 7-8-16; 100-965, eff. 8-19-18.)


Teachers are routinely forced to clean their own classrooms. We know this is not the fault of janitors. The responsibility lies with private corporations who short-staff schools, fail to provide janitors with adequate supplies, and ignore critical needs – while lining their executives’ pockets with our tax dollars.

The Chicago Teachers Union has blasted CPS and Mayor Emanuel for these deplorable conditions – and it’s time to step up our fight for decent teaching and learning conditions in our schools. You’ll find more information and tools to spur action at your school below.

Do any of these sound familiar?

  • Dirt and dust – including from asbestos floor and ceiling tiles and lead paint in windows – not swept or mopped up or appropriately sealed.
  • Food left rotting in garbage cans and rodent and insect infestations in classrooms and other school locations.
  • Deplorable conditions in children’s and staff bathrooms, gas leaks from old boilers, non-functioning heating and air conditioning, and other facilities problems.

These kinds of conditions — buildings that are crumbling, toxic and filthy — compromise the health and safety of students and staff.

We have contract provisions that allow us to fight against these dangerous conditions!

Members need to document and collect information – so fill out this short survey on school cleanliness and upload your pictures and video there. Article 14 of the CTU contract, “Safe and Healthy Work Environments,” stipulates that all school staff shall work in safe and healthful conditions (14-1) and that any situation that is likely to cause harm will be assessed with an on-site inspection within three days (14-2). Article 44, “General Provisions,” stipulates that teachers should not have to clean their own classrooms (44-3), that bathrooms need to be clean (44-5) and that every area in the school building will be cleaned each day (44-5).

What You Can Do:

  1. Use this Guide to Fighting for School Cleanliness, as well as the survey above and other documents below.
  2. Document everything! We have schools that are using a google spreadsheet or this document to track cleanliness problems. Please take lots of photos and videos and email them to the CTU.
  3. Raise this issue at your monthly PPC meetings
  4. Contact your field representative to file a grievance
  5. Talk to the LSC and to parents and encourage them to speak out
  6. Involve your local politicians
  7. Organize a group from your school to testify at the monthly board meetings
  8. Request a meeting with one of the board members: http://www.cpsboe.org/office-hours
  9. Become deeply informed: