After Roof Blows Off Juarez School, Pilsen Parents Demand Answers From CPS

March 14, 2017

PILSEN — After a section of a roof at Benito Juarez Community Academy blew off in high winds Monday night, parents at the school are demanding answers from Chicago Public Schools leaders.

At the Pilsen school Wednesday, Juarez parents said the roof, which was installed less than 10 years ago, showed signs that it might not have been installed properly before the roof collapse. Leaks and chipping paint in the ceiling had been reported, the parents said.

Cristina Rodriguez, whose son is a freshman at Juarez, said if the roof collapse would have happened when kids were at school, someone could have been seriously hurt. It is not a CPS priority to fix schools “for Latinos, for the poor,” she said in Spanish.

“The roof must have to fall off on top of the principal of the school for them to do something,” she said.

Rosa Esquivel, an activist with Pilsen Alliance, also has a son who attends Juarez. She called on the city to allocate tax increment financing money to fix the school immediately.

“If they are doing this type of job, it should last longer,” she said. “This is not something that should be happening in the United Stated of America. Our children should not be going to school in these types of conditions.”

Mothers Cristina Rodriguez and Rosa Esquivel, who both have sons attending Juarez Community Academy, were outraged by the roof damage. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

Bill Iacullo, president of International Union of Operating Engineers Local 143, questioned whether the roof was adequately inspected by CPS after it was installed.

“The quality of buildings now has gone down,” he said, pointing out that the roof on the main Juarez building built in the 1970s was not damaged by winds. “I don’t think there was enough follow-up after construction.”

CPS: Roof collapse was a ‘catastrophic failure’ 

The cause of the roof collapse is under investigation, said Robert Christlieb, CPS senior manager of construction operations and facilities. The investigation is expected to take a few weeks.

The roof had a 20-year warranty, he said.

“So we’re only halfway through that warranty right now,” Christlieb said at a local school council meeting Wednesday night.

“We are looking into this as a warranty issue,” he said. “We believe that something went wrong with the roof that caused a catastrophic failure.”

A structural engineer and city inspector determined there was no structural damage to the annex or bridge.

“I am amazed that the roof just peeled off and didn’t do any other damage. We are very lucky in that regard,” Christlieb said.

A temporary roof will be put on the bridge later this week, Christlieb said, and a replacement roof will be installed over spring break or this summer.

The damage has led Juarez Principal Juan Carlos Ocon to close the school’s main entrance, and students and staff are being asked to enter at door No. 4 on Ashland instead.

Earlier this week, Steve Vidal, a visual arts educator and teacher at the school, said on Facebook the badly damaged annex was caused by “bad workmanship.”

“Contractors hired by CPS to build our annex apparently didn’t do the job right. Our classrooms on the ‘new’ bridge were flooded.”

Jennie Biggs, a member of public education advocacy group Raise Your Hand, said the roof collapse happened as CPS continues to pursue dollars to fund new school projects.

“It makes no sense at all. Why is CPS borrowing $729 million to invest in new capital projects when it’s clear that our existing schools are desperate for investment,” Biggs said.


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