LITTLE VILLAGE — Understaffing and overcrowding are stressing out parents and students at Castellanos Elementary after the school saw budget cuts and an influx of students from a school shuttered last year.
Castellanos, 2524 S. Central Park Ave., is the receiving school for Paderewski Elementary, a grade school that closed in June.
Earlier this school year, some sixth-grade classrooms were averaging 37 students per class, Principal Virginia Jimenez said. Since then, the school’s science lab has been closed and its library relocated to create more classroom space.
But the lab teacher's position was eliminated, and now Jimenez also must replace an eighth-grade reading teacher who left the school.
Jimenez, who's in her second year as principal at Castellanos, said after the Local School Council meeting Friday that the decision to hire new teachers is a “difficult” one right now, as she doesn’t want to hire the wrong person for the job under pressure.
“Obviously, it’s not good not to have found a teacher,” Jimenez said in response to the parents' concerns.
Several parents said that students have told them there have been many substitute teachers at the school, said Lorena Garcia, chair of the LSC.
Parents “thought there was going to be more money for the transitional schools, and we're having a problem because we don’t have teachers,” Garcia said.
The parents asked Jimenez to bring their concerns to the attention of Chicago Public Schools.
Jimenez responded that the issue was an internal one and that district officials did not need to get involved. A CPS spokesman denied teacher absenteeism was a problem at the school.
The school has seen some tighter budgets this year. Jimenez said her school’s initial budget was more than $100,000 less than last year's. And while she received $80,000 more from CPS due to her school’s enrollment, Jimenez said most of that money went toward plugging the school’s financial gaps rather than hiring staff.
While there have not been any new full-time teaching hires this year, a security guard and a dean position have been added.