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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Neighbors Angry After High School Dumped Dozens of Classic Books, But CPS Says They Were Outdated

CPS officials say the books were recycled and are conducting an "evaluation" of the confusing situation.

Books in dumpster
Copies of books like "The Great Gatsby" and "Hiroshima" were photographed in what appears to be a dumpster. This photo was posted in a neighborhood Facebook group.
Provided by Marty Hyams
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EDGEWATER — A Facebook photo of dozens of copies of classic books, including “The Great Gatsby” and “Hiroshima,” in what appears to be a dumpster has outraged Edgewater neighbors, but Chicago Public Schools and a nearby principal say it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The books were found near Senn High School, 5900 N. Glenwood Ave., according to the posts, which have since gone viral.

“What a waste. I can see dumping outdated text books, but never novels,” one neighbor wrote.

“This is terrible. Why can’t these books be donated,” asked another.

Until recently, Rickover Naval Academy, another CPS school, shared a building with Senn High School, but recently moved to the former Luther High School North building. As part of that move, certain materials were weeded out, according to a CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton.

“Weeding” is an essential process to ensure schools keep a relevant book collection. Condition, usage in the curriculum or providing wrong or dated information are among the factors considered in the weeding process, according to CPS policy.

Rickover’s moving process “necessitate[d] a significant reduction in the number of items belonging to the school,” Bolton said. Outdated books were recycled as part of that weeding out process.

It’s unclear if books belonging to Senn were recycled, too. The Senn library is undergoing a renovation and Bolton said it is possible some books were accidentally included in the weeding process during the renovation. But Senn Principal Mary Beck said in an email the books that were marked for recycling belonged to Rickover Naval Academy.

Credit: Marty Hyams; Mel Wilson
Books spotted in dumpsters near Senn High School.

An email from Beck sent to parents last week said some used paperback books were tossed in a recycling dumpster as a result of Rickover’s move. As of last Friday, Rickover was officially moved out.

“In this move, they left a lot behind and our custodians worked hard to remove items from classrooms, closets and lockers,” the email reads. “During that process, some of their used paperback books were tossed in a recycling dumpster. Unfortunately, some of our neighbors then used the receptacle for their own garbage which led to the appearance that these books were simply being trashed rather than being sent to recycling.”

Beck wrote that Senn follows all CPS procedures in managing text books and technology.

“Although we provide all our students with Chromebooks and have shifted many of our materials to an online platform, we continue to use textbooks and novels as the foundation for our rigorous, globally minded curriculum,” she wrote.

In the wake of complaints, CPS is conducting an evaluation of the situation and will ensure staff knows about policies for book recycling and weeding, the official said.

The district did not respond to further questions about the incident, including where the books are located now.

V. Kouchoukos, a Senn parent and member of the school’s local school council, said it’s frustrating Senn is being blamed for the books that were weeded out ahead of Rickover’s move. The incident is not reflective of the work that has been put into the high school in recent years to uplift it, she said.

“They don’t think of all the good things that are happening at the school,” she said.

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