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Chicago agrees to hire 200 more custodians for "deep cleaning" of schools

3-year contract with janitors' union calls for $7 million in additional spending to get city schools in better shape.

The union for Chicago Public Schools' janitors says district officials have agreed to hire 200 more custodians to clean schools.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that leaders with Service Employees International Union Local 1 have reached a new three-year contract with the school system that includes provisions to hire the janitors this summer to do deep cleanings of schools

The school district says 100 of the custodians will remain in the fall and that all the hirings will cost $7 million. Officials also agreed to meet quarterly with the union to discuss school conditions.

Meanwhile, members of the Chicago Teachers Union say the additional resources are not enough to end the district's "cleanliness crisis." Union members at a South Side high school donned hazmat suits Friday to dramatize the poor conditions, which they say include rodents, leaky pipes, tiles falling from the ceiling, and a lack of toilet paper and soap.

The high school, Kenwood Academy, is one of many schools that have failed a recent cleanliness inspection.

The Sun-Times has documented filthy conditions in schools where custodians are managed by Aramark, a private contractor. Of 125 schools examined in “blitz” cleanliness inspections, 91 failed.

Janitors say they can’t keep up with cleaning schools because Aramark and another company that oversees additional facilities work, SodexoMAGIC, have cut too many of them since taking over in 2014. They had asked for 500 more janitors to clean the schools.

The school district intervened in the recent negotiations between SEIU Local 1 and Aramark and SodexoMagic. Records show that Chicago Public Schools paid Aramark $61.3 million and SodexoMagic $28.5 million during the 2016-17 school year for services that include cleaning.

Members of the union, which represents the 1,700 privately employed janitors who clean the city’s public schools, are scheduled to meet Saturday to discuss the terms of the contract. The district directly employs up to 825 additional janitors.

Chicago Schools CEO Janice Jackson has told principals that the rest of the district's campuses will be inspected before the end of the school year so the district can determine where to deploy the additional 200 summer custodians.

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