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Logan Square, Humboldt Park, Avondale

Old Mobile Classroom ‘Rotting From The Inside Out’ A Danger To CPS Kids, School Leaders Say

The Monroe Elementary classroom has a rat infestation, poor plumbing and non-functioning smoke alarms, according to school leaders.

Monroe Elementary's campus.
Block Club Chicago/Mina Bloom
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LOGAN SQUARE — A hulking mobile classroom on Monroe Elementary’s campus has far overstayed its welcome.

That’s according to school leaders who are demanding Chicago Public Schools officials remove the classroom, which they say has greatly deteriorated since it arrived on campus more than 30 years ago.

Today, it suffers from a rat infestation, poor plumbing and non-functioning smoke alarms, among other issues, according to school leaders.

“The custodians who clean them say there’s a very, very bad smell coming up from the plumbing,” Maria Gutierrez, president of the Local School Council, said in Spanish through a translator. 

“[There’s] a lot of black soot. On the floor, when you mop, it’s rotted out. It’s rotting from the inside out,” she said. 

Right now, the classroom is only used for music workshops, but those classes will soon move indoors if the budget allows, according to Monroe Principal Bryan Quinlan. Most of the time, the classroom sits vacant, making it a magnet for gang members and loiterers who like to smoke, drink and hang out on the street at night, school leaders said.

Not only is the classroom unsafe and filthy, it’s also unnecessary, leaders said. It was originally meant to address overcrowding at the school, but the school is no longer overcrowded.

Quinlan and the Local School Council recently launched a petition calling for the removal of the mobile classroom. The petition has gained about 600 signatures from both members of the school community and neighbors.

The council also recently attended a town hall with CPS CEO Janice Jackson, where they intended ask Jackson for it to be removed during public comment, but the group didn’t get a chance to speak due to time constraints. After the meeting, district officials said they’d visit the school to “review the site,” according to Quinlan.

CPS officials did not return requests for comment.

Mobile classrooms started becoming a popular solution to overcrowding in the Chicago Public School system in the 1960s, according to a report by the Great Cities Institute. One Northwest Side alderman once described mobile classrooms as a “band-aid” and “not a permanent solution” when addressing plans to build an annex on Prussing Elementary’s campus.

Amanda Yu Dieterich, member of the Monroe Local School Council, said she’s confident the district will do the right thing and remove the mobile classroom from Monroe’s campus.

Other leaders throughout the school’s history have called for the classroom’s removal, but this is the first time the group is this organized, Dieterich said.

“We are a council that moves forward, so honestly there’s no point in asking what has taken so long. It’s more like, ‘Let’s try and find a solution together,’” she said.

If the unit is removed, school leaders will solicit community feedback on what to put in its place. A community garden and a turf field are two potential options, leaders said. 

“We’d like something for the students to be able to use,” Gutierrez said.