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Portage Park Elementary, Once So Hot Crayons Melted, Gets Air Conditioning

By Heather Cherone | December 18, 2014 5:39am
  It was so hot at Portage Park Elementary School this fall crayons melted in a third-floor classroom.
Petitions Demand Air Conditioning at Portage Park Elementary
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PORTAGE PARK — Portage Park Elementary School will get air conditioning, Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office said Wednesday, four months after parents and school officials launched a petition and letter-writing campaign begging the mayor to cool down the school.

A heat wave during the first week of school in September made classrooms on the third floor of the school's main building unbearable, according to parents, teachers and students. It was so hot that a plastic bag of crayons melted on a windowsill, Local School Council Chairwoman Victoria Benson said.

"I'm so excited our hard work paid off," Benson said. "This is a huge victory for our school."

A petition and letter-writing drive launched by the council on the first day of school gathered nearly 600 signatures, and an online petition gathered 243 signatures, Benson said. Many of the letters from students featured drawings of kids with sweat pouring from their faces, struggling to pay attention in class.

Benson, along with Principal Maureen Ready and Local School Council member Maria Chickering, met Tuesday with Emanuel, who delivered the news in person at a City Hall meeting organized by Ald. Tim Cullerton (38th).

"It was a very positive meeting," Benson said, praising Cullerton for arranging it.

Cullerton, who attended kindergarten at Portage Park Elementary School, said he was glad to help resolve this issue before retiring from the council in May.

"Nothing is guaranteed until it happens," Cullerton said. "But the mayor was very gracious."

Portage Park Elementary School, 5330 W. Berteau Ave., will get air conditioning before the start of the 2015-16 school year, according to a statement from Catherine Turco, a spokeswoman for the mayor.

In all, 154 public schools have received air conditioning in the past two years, officials said.

The effort to install air conditioning at all public schools is ahead of schedule and under budget, making it possible for air conditioning to be installed at Portage Park Elementary School this summer, officials said.

The school's 100-year-old main building has no air conditioning, and the cooling system in the addition to the school built in 1999 works only sporadically, school officials said.

Before the air conditioning can be installed, CPS officials will survey the school's electrical system, and ensure it can handle the additional load.

The upgrades to the electrical system will allow officials to improve sound and lighting in the school's auditorium, Benson said, calling that a "win-win."

Benson said she was pleased Portage Park Elementary School had caught the mayor's attention.

"A parent shouldn't have to work this hard to get something like this done," Benson said. "But I'm happy to do the work if it means a positive outcome for the kids."

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