WICKER PARK — During Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, snow and ice befell Chicago, and neighbors in Wicker Park and Humboldt Park noticed one property owner failing to clear its sidewalks: Chicago Public Schools.
Like any property owner in Chicago, CPS is required to keep its sidewalks clear of snow and ice. But neighbors in both neighborhoods witnessed unsalted ice and unshoveled snow outside at least three schools for a duration of four days.
Schools included the Chicago High School for the Arts in Humboldt Park, and Sabin Dual Magnet Elementary School and A.N. Pritzker School in Wicker Park.
Neighbor Collin James Diederich walks past Chicago School for the Arts each day to take his 7-month-old son to daycare.
“What is with this ice trap you have at your school on the sidewalks you do not shovel?” he said, referring to CPS.
Ed McMenamin lives on the eastern edge of Humboldt Park. To get to the CTA Blue Line he walks past the Wicker Park schools.
During Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, he avoided the ice by walking in the streets.
“I know that was a holiday weekend, but they should still have to remove ice from the sidewalks,” he said. “[It is] often an entire block length of ice.”
McMenamin has lived in Wicker Park and Humboldt Park for a decade. Unshoveled and unsalted sidewalks outside public schools aren’t a rare sight, he said.
“Often times when it snows or ices, schools are the last property on the block to have theirs shoveled,” he said. “Two weekends ago, it was icy. It was dangerously icy. It was pretty bad. They should have to clear it.”
Citations for failure to shovel are administered by the Chicago Department of Transportation, but according to spokesperson Susan Hofer, CDOT does not cite other city agencies.
“It wouldn’t make sense to issue monetary fines to other city agencies,” Hofer said. “It doesn’t make sense for CDOT to fine a school. It’s the same tax base.”
Instead, CDOT inspectors primarily target businesses and multi-unit buildings, she said.
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) recently cracked down on violators in his South Side ward, working with city workers to dole out citations to businesses.
Fines range from $50 to $500 and are determined by the city’s Law Department, Lopez said.
“It’s an issue that goes beyond my ward,” he said. “This is about changing behavior. It’s not about money.”
During Lopez’s crackdown, however, Back of the Yards High School was spared. CPS assured city workers an outside contractor was on its way, Lopez said.
But those conversations rely on the public reporting hazardous sidewalks to 311, Hofer said.
“If you see it, call 311 or go on the app and request that they be visited,” she said. “We’ll work with them rather than cite them.”
To report a school with an unshoveled sidewalk, dial 311 or submit a request online.
James Gherardi, a spokesperson for CPS, said the district aims to clear snow in a “timely manner” during and following snowfall.
“We are grateful to the individuals who informed us about the partial snow clearing and we addressed the situation immediately,” he said.
According to a source within CPS, the responsibility of shoveling and salting sidewalks is shared by school staff and “facility vendors.”
Neighbors who witness icy or snowy sidewalks should inform the school’s facility manager by calling the building’s main office, the source said.
McMenamin, a neighbor, said he understands CPS faces major budgeting constraints, and that the district is likely juggling several financial needs at once.
“I believe in our local public schools, but it is dangerous,” McMenamin said. “And the school district should have to play by the same rules as every one else.”
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