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CPS needs to invest in neighborhood schools

By Kaden Abrigunda

[The following report is the author’s remarks at a press conference held before the meeting of the Chicago Board of Education on June 27. Several students, including Kaden, protested CPS disinvestment in neighborhood schools.]

My name is Kaden and I am a leader with Communities United. My pronouns are he/him/his. By the next school year, I will be a senior at Steinmetz College Prep in the Belmont Cragin neighborhood.

I am here because I am concerned about the new school that is being built near Steinmetz. I am concerned that CPS does not prioritize my school when it comes to funding current schools in need, yet they prioritize building new schools.

I want to share with you all the issues Steinmetz is going through. Our classrooms don’t have enough seats for us to sit in and at times we have to share desk with each other because the desks that we have are broken and we do not have extra seats.

Our bathrooms are not usable because toilets are usually overflown or out of service. Our water fountains are usually out of service as well and at times does not taste like its water. Our teachers have gone out of their way to buy supplies out of their own pockets for their classes to provide for their students. My teachers buy supplies on a weekly basis.

We have students who carry a lot of mental trauma as baggage every day into school and yet we do not have enough counselors that can talk to these students. Especially when the counselors job is to check where am I going to college and how am I doing academically, rather than focus on the issue I go through.

Lastly, the hallways do not look the same as when I started my freshman year. Right now, Steinmetz is at a utilization rate of 67 percent, which is the lowest utilization rate among all schools in Belmont-Cragin. Half of our school space is not being used to have students because our enrollment rates are so low.

Since the opening of the Noble school  ITW in 2014, Steinmetz has gone from 1,823 students in 2013 to 1,278 at the end of the 2017-2018 school year. That is a 30% enrollment drop in five years, each year losing about 100 students.

Even after all these statistics, CPS still plans to invest in a completely new school that will hurt Steinmetz. Do you think that’s right?

That is why we are in front of CPS headquarters, demanding that CPS start funding our schools in Belmont Cragin, including Steinmetz, rather than building new schools.

We also demand transparency, have a clear process to engage stakeholders when decisions are made to build a new school.

By the time I graduate, my school is at risk of shutting down. But we can come together and prevent our neighborhood schools from being shut down.

What do we want?

More funding.

When do we want it?

Now.

Make some noise. Thanks you.

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