Community Groups Demand Investigation on Roof Collapse and More Funding to Guarantee Safety

From Pilsen Alliance press release

Parents, students, and staff at Benito Juarez High School in Pilsen arrived at school Tuesday morning to find that the roof of the bridge had blown off during the middle of the night. The roof, which was installed less than 10 years ago, caused classroom flooding and debris accumulation near the walkways.  Teachers and students had also commented that there had been other signs that the roof was not properly installed, including prior leaks and chips in the ceiling.

Isaias Esquivel arrived at the school early Tuesday to drop off his son. “The scene was unbelievable – garbage and massive pieces of the roof were everywhere. This was a disaster waiting to happen and we are truly lucky no one was hurt.”

Esquivel was joined by public education advocates from around the city including the organization Raise Your Hand. Groups questioned how quickly the annex roof had collapsed and why CPS continues to pursue money for new school projects. “It makes no sense at all. Why is CPS borrowing $729 million to invest in new capital projects when it’s clear that our existing schools are desperate for investment?” asked Jennie Biggs, a member of Raise Your Hand.

The news of the roof comes only weeks after the school was hit with one of the largest mid-term cuts mandated by CPS. The school was scheduled to lose $613,000 before community organizations across the city pressured the Board of Education to return part of the discretionary funds on the basis that Latinx schools had been unfairly impacted. It also comes one day after Chance the Rapper donated $1 million to Chicago schools and called on politicians to resolve the budget crisis.

“We are in a severe educational crisis and all the politicians can do is play the blame game. Charity will only get us so far. We need real sustainable solutions at the state and city level. There are millions of TIF dollars that should be allocated for school projects. Where is that money? Are batting cages more important than public education in this city?” asked Byron Sigcho, Co-Director of the community organizing group Pilsen Alliance.

Lorena Vargas, a parent to 2 CPS students in Pilsen added, “Parents, teachers, and community members in Pilsen and other Latinx and Black communities are tired of being treated as second class citizens. The roof is yet another symbol of the corruption and inefficiency of a Mayor appointed school board. We need an elected representative school board that can be held accountable for these types of disasters.”

Photo via Pilsen Alliance