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Gale School's Peeling Lead Paint, Faulty Fire Alarms Unsafe for Kids: LSC

 Peeling paint in a Gale Math and Science Academy classroom
Peeling paint in a Gale Math and Science Academy classroom
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Chicago Light Brigade

ROGERS PARK — School leaders and parents of Gale Math and Science Academy on the Far North Side say their pleas for the city to clean up peeling lead paint in classrooms and to fix faulty fire-alarm systems — among other problems — have gone unanswered for years.

The school's Local School Council compiled a list this month detailing the issues with the school's main building, at 1631 W. Jonquil Terrace, and at its newer annex across the street, at 7650 N. Marshfield Ave.

But they are still waiting for a response from district headquarters.

Josh Hartwell — an LSC member who has children aged 10, 7 and 3 attending the school — said "some of the rooms have been deemed inoperable" due to the peeling lead paint and leaky ceilings.

 The Gale Math and Science Academy annex building at 7650 N. Marshfield Ave.
The Gale Math and Science Academy annex building at 7650 N. Marshfield Ave.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

"It's starting to trickle down in some of the classrooms now," Hartwell said. "We have not been able to get CPS to come in and get it fixed. In some of the classrooms, it's been a couple of years."

When asked whether the school was safe for young students, CPS Spokesman Joel Hood said in a statement that the district was "looking into concerns" raised by the community "to ensure that students and school personnel have a safe and secure learning environment."

Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said Gale's principal, Cassandra Washington, "confirmed there were some outstanding issues they have been trying to get CPS to address."

Moore said he had reached out to CPS "to get their perspective and timetable for resolving the issues."

A recently announced plan to invest $1.1 billion into Chicago school facilities over the next five years does not include any projects at Gale.

Resident Daniel Dilliplane, a member of the Chicago Light Brigade, formerly Occupy Rogers Park, said he and others had decided to protest the district's lack of response to the problems at Gale, which has also been hit with steep budget cuts in recent years.

"What concerns us most is we see a lot of this stuff as an escalation of a pattern of divestment that’s been happening in these communities for a long time now," Dilliplane said. "There’s places throughout the building where you can see the leaky roof. It’s causing the paint to crackle and chip in a lot of places."

LSC members said the classrooms with chipping paint had tested positive for lead.

The district's "Facility Performance Standards" says that in all buildings constructed in 1978 or earlier, "it must be assumed that all paint products are lead-based." It says schools should "repair or remove surfaces with lead-based paint that is damaged or is subject to damage in areas occupied by students and staff.

Gale's main building opened in 1922.

There have been other outstanding issues, too, Hartwell said.

The main building's fire-alarm system has also been faulty, he said. When an alarm was pulled recently, the system didn't direct first-responders to the correct floor, he said.

"It's really concerning that we have a fire-alarm system that isn't working properly," he said. "How does a public building operate without a fire-alarm system?"

The new annex building's heating and cooling system hasn't been working properly.

Last summer, students had to be moved to the old building, which has 20-year-old window air-conditioning units, because it "got too hot," he said.

He said the LSC and school administration had followed "the proper channels" to fix the issues.

"It's just been no response," Hartwell said.

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