ROSCOE VILLAGE — On a perfect summer afternoon this week— 87 degrees and sunny — sweaty kids at Lane Tech College Prep headed home frustrated that they have to wait an extra week to start their shortest summer break ever.
At Lane Tech, one of Illinois’ top schools, kids are smart enough to know they should be hitting the beach, the skate park, going on family trips and starting summer jobs by now.
And as you’d expect, they’re not too happy about being stuck in school year overtime thanks to teachers’ strike makeup days and the longer school year mandated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
“We hate it a lot. We have 4,000 kids, and it gets really hot and stuffy. It’s miserable, and the dress code stinks. I don’t think it’s fair to the students or teachers," freshman Margaret Loch said.
“I supported the teachers' strike. Now, I’m regretting it.”
On the hottest days, upper floors of the magnificent Lane Tech building, built in the 1930s, might as well be a sweatshop, students said.
“At sixth period, I have to walk up the stairs to the fourth floor. It’s summer, and it’s hot, and sometimes people forget to wear deodorant,” junior Neomi Torres said. “It’s not that fun.”
Most kids were reluctant to blame their teachers, instead heaping blame on Mayor Emanuel and his longer school year.
Emanuel's call for a longer school day and an additional 10 days of instruction were the centerpiece of his plan to improve student achievement. He said the additional time would allow students to have reading and recess.
The mayor's critics, however, have said there’s not a lot of proof that the added time improves student learning and test scores.
Lane Tech kids said that this year the mayor's mandate is just sucking up their summer vacation — not making them smarter.
“It does nothing with our education,” sophomore Tony Tran said. “Right now, we’re sitting in class watching movies on Netflix. We’re not using this time for education. We’re slacking off.”
So are some teachers, junior Grace Medina said.
“My seventh-period teacher didn’t even show up to class. Teachers don’t care,” she said. “It’s a waste of time. We’re not doing anything, and everyone is miserable, and summer should have started.”
What really ticks kids off is being forced to return for a full day of school on Monday — after all their final exams are complete.
“All are tests are done. Monday is a day we shouldn’t have to come. But we have to show up because we’re scared of our grades dropping,” freshman Jonathan Perez said. “It’s not really fair to us students.”
What’s worse is school resumes the last week of August instead of after Labor Day, making summer break just two months long.
“Last year, I got out May 31 and got back in September,” Margaret Loch said. “It’s outrageous how we have to go back Aug. 26. It makes me so mad.”
Resting under a shade tree, sophomore Andy Blake calmly summed up his fellow students' beef over the shortest summer ever the way only a smart teenager could.
“It’s completely bogus,” he said. “They get money for us being present. They want the money because CPS is broke. That’s what it comes down to. I love learning, but it’s not like we’re being productive.”
Andy’s not happy, but he’s not mad at the mayor, either.
“I think kids blindly say, ‘Oh, Rahm Emanuel screwed up.’ But I feel like he … handled the situation as best as possible,” Andy said. “He took a little bit of a push from the teachers, but then he pushed back, extending the school year. I think it was the right move.”
But if the mayor wants to make things up to school kids — a powerful voting bloc of the future — there is one thing he can do.
“Air conditioning is key,” Andy said. “School is hot as hell.”