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Abandoned Portable Classroom at Elementary School Worries Parents

By Benjamin Woodard | November 28, 2012 8:09pm

ROGERS PARK — Teachers and parents at Eugene Field School say an abandoned portable classroom sitting in their school's parking lot poses a safety hazard for students.

The red, dilapidated trailer is the last of a handful of them that once provided much-needed space at a crowded city school. But since other schools have opened nearby, the auxiliary classrooms haven't been needed.

More than 200 teachers and community members have signed a petition requesting the school district remove it.

Parent Shamolia James, who collected signatures at polling places on election night earlier this month, said she was worried about student safety, including that of her 14-year-old son.

"All of these children are my babies," said James.

The school's principal, Brian Metcalf, initiated the petition because the classroom is not only an eyesore but a safety hazard.

Bob Fuller, one of the school's Local School Council community representatives, wants to see the large, mostly empty parking lot at the school where the portable classroom is located converted into a turf field.

The school had estimated it would take $150,000 to demolish the classroom, which has full plumbing and electrical. He said that in the late 1990s, CPS constructed several portable classrooms in the school's parking lot because the elementary school was overcrowded. But since Eugene Field's sister school, New Field Elementary, was built in 2003, overcrowding has not been an issue.

Several years ago, he said, the city tore down all but the remaining classroom.

"It's just a matter of time before something bad happens, like with any abandoned building," Fuller said.

Fuller and James hoped the petition would catch the eye of CPS officials downtown, and that the demolition of the building would become a priority in its budget.

District officials said they wanted to work with the community, but funding hasn't been secured.

"We are always open to receiving suggestions and ideas from the community and are interested in the Field School community's thoughts on this issue,"  CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus said in an email. "As removal or demolition requires funding, we would need to identify those resources as part of any agreed to plan."

Fuller said he understands it might take some time.

"It's important to us living in the neighborhood," he said. "But some issues don't get addressed by the big offices downtown. We're trying to be as squeaky of a wheel as possible."