ROGERS PARK — Chicago Public Schools knew there was lead paint in first-floor bathrooms of Gale Math and Science Academy at least five years ago, but the district didn't remove the paint until this summer, records show.
Neighborhood activists, who have been fighting for years for more resources for a struggling Gale, released the records Wednesday after obtaining the results of lead testing done at the school through a Freedom of Information Act request.
"We know that this is not something that’s going to be limited to Gale, and it’s incredibly dangerous and needs to be addressed at other schools," said Daniel Dilliplane, a member of the Chicago Light Brigade, which published a report critical of CPS.
Ben Woodard gives details about the report and tells why parents are so concerned:
A CPS spokesman, Bill McCaffrey, said late Wednesday that CPS staff would evaluate Gale that evening "as a precautionary measure" and determine "what steps, if any, are necessary to provide students with a healthy learning environment."
"Chicago Public Schools’ top priority is the safety and well-being of its students, teachers and staff," McCaffrey said. "Our facilities team continuously monitors buildings for any unsafe conditions, which includes preventing any buildings with lead-based paints from posing a health threat."
The documents released by the activists included a letter to CPS from a consultant dated July 28, 2009. He notes that he was called to the school to investigate paint in the boys' and girls' bathrooms.
His findings indicated all walls tested positive for lead-based paint. He also observed "damage" to the paint on the ceilings and walls, as well as the bathrooms' radiators, which also tested positive for lead, according to the report.
Local School Council members and other community residents have said they've been pleading for years with CPS to clean up the school and fix other facility issues there.
Lead poisoning can harm nearly every system in the body and cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems and, at high levels, seizures, coma and even death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In another report, dated Sept. 18, 2013, the same consultant group found lead paint not only in the bathrooms, but also in classrooms on the third floor of the school, at 1631 W. Jonquil Ave.
Dilliplane said these same classrooms show evidence of peeling paint.
Two other tests were performed this summer, after several media reports about the paint and other facility problems, such as a faulty fire alarm system. The testing came after CPS announced it would remove lead paint from six bathrooms at the school.
On June 25, a survey of the school's roof tested negative for lead-based paint, according to the report.
On July 9, an extensive survey found lead-based paint in several other rooms, including a third-floor counselor's room, the gymnasium office, a second-floor classroom and on handrails on the first floor, according to the report.
The CPS "Facility Performance Standards" states that in all buildings constructed in 1978 or earlier, "it must be assumed that all paint products are lead-based."
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," the standards state.
Gale's main building on Jonquil opened in 1922.
LSC member Kyle Hillman said the school's prekindergarten and elementary school students attend classes in Gale's older building. Middle school students use Gale's newer annex across the street at 7650 N. Marshfield Ave.
Dilliplane said he was concerned students at Gale, a school that has been on academic probation for five years, could have been harmed by lead.
"There’s a lot of information about the effects of lead chips ... and lead dust from paint," he said.
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