Chicago district plans to end privatized custodial services

Feb. 13, 2024
The school system says it will end its janitorial contract with Aramark and return to in-house management of custodians.

The Chicago school district is taking steps to cancel its janitorial contract with Aramark after years of complaints of dirty schools, a lack of cleaning supplies and poor management of custodians.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that district officials will ask the school board next week to approve a series of proposals that would fire Aramark, which manages all of the school system's custodians, and return to in-house management of janitors.  Tha plan also calls for the district to hire other smaller companies to provide some custodial services that Aramark was operating.

The decision represents the most significant change to the district's facilities management since services were privatized a decade ago. 

To be able to oversee all custodians, the district plans to hire around 70 custodial managers. Chief Operating Officer Charles Mayfield said principals also will have greater voice in what custodians do. Principals have long complained about not being able to direct custodians in their buildings and even at times have taken it upon themselves to clean dirty spaces.

The district is looking to sign a three-year deal with seven new vendors to do custodial work. Dayside janitors will work for the district and those who work overnight will be privately employed through those companies — but all will report to a district-employed manager. The contract would start in March and average $110 million a year over the next three years.

Aramark’s multimillion-dollar deal expires June 30. By then, Chicago will have paid Aramark around $900 million since 2014.

Mayfield said concerns about Aramark’s performance over the years led officials to seek an alternative, and that this new system represents “an opportunity to see where we can make some improvements.”

Aramark spokesman Chris Collom said the company was disappointed it was not selected to continue its work with the district.

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