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Pasteur Elementary Parents Outraged at Overcrowding

Dozens of parents from Pasteur Elementary School in West Lawn voiced their outrage about school overcrowding at the Sept. 30 Chicago Board of Education meeting.

Everado Mares, chairman of Pasteur’s Local School Council and parent of a sixth-grader there, brought a petition with more than 300 signatures from people pleading for a solution to the overcrowding epidemic.

A school board plan includes a new school at 4707 West Marquette Road for the overflow of students from Pasteur, Lee and Hurley Schools. Space is reserved for 100 Pasteur students, but Local School Council members say this will offer only minimal relief.

Mares said the school board has not involved them in the process nor reached out to them until after they made their final decision. Mares said they were promised to always be included in the plans for a new school, but that has not been the case.

“They haven’t asked what we want or need,” said Mares.

There are currently 1,393 students enrolled at Pasteur, and the total capacity for the school, which includes a modular unit and leased space at St. Camillus, is 1,245. The seventh- and eighth-graders attend the off-campus satellite schools.

Pasteur Elementary is a multi-track school, which runs year-round in an effort to alleviate overcrowding. Pasteur is one of seven multi-track schools in the Chicago Public Schools system.

Latino students comprise almost 90 percent of the student population at Pasteur, and the issue of overcrowding is not new. Mares said that the school should be able to provide the children with better educational tools and technological resources, but they can barely house their students.

The community is struggling economically. Approximately 86 percent of the students are eligible for the free lunch program, which is 10 percent higher than the city’s average.

Mares contended that overcrowding is impacting the students’ education and student scores on the Illinois Standards Achievement Tests.

CPS Board President Michael Scott said that he was not aware of the concerns brought by the parents of Pasteur.

Denise Sullivan, Local School Council member and parent of fourth- and fifth-graders, said parents have contacted Scott, but the school board hasn’t returned their calls. Sullivan lives across the street from the school and does not want her children bused when space can be utilized close to campus.

“The president said this is the first time he’s heard our concerns,” said Sullivan. “Parents have been calling.”

Sullivan said she felt the parents who came up to speak were not well-received by members of the board.

“It seems like they changed their tone when we got up there,” said Sullivan. “It feels like we’re being punished. We are not being heard.”

Christina Gewarges is a parent of a fourth-grader, and her nephew is one of the seventh-graders who is bused to a satellite. Her nephew spends almost two hours every day on the bus commuting to school. Gewarges also said she felt the school board didn’t care and didn’t want to hear what they had to say at Wednesday’s meeting.

Assistant Principal JoAnn Fulanovich said that the overcrowding has been an issue for the last 13 years and a hardship for the parents and the students.

Malon Edwards, a spokesman for Chicago Public School, said that the plans have not yet been presented to the school board, and there would have to be a few community meetings before this matter went forward.

“This is not a done deal,” said Edwards.

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