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Parents and students in Chicago community rally to support game-changing new school plan: 'We don't have much time left'

"Most concerning is the impact the current state of the buildings has on students."

“Most concerning is the impact the current state of the buildings has on students."

Photo Credit: iStock

Advocates are coming together in Chicago to push for changes to the educational system to make learning more comfortable and safe for students. 

In February, the Chicago Tribune reported that Sunrise Chicago launched the Green New Deal for Chicago Public Schools campaign, also known as GND4CPS, on Feb. 4. 

The initiative, which is also supported by the Chicago Teachers Union Climate Justice Committee, aims for more equitable learning spaces. 

According to GND4CPS' campaign guide, the elimination of toxic materials like asbestos and the addition of weatherizing features to increase energy efficiency and provide better ventilation for students and faculty are among the requests.   

"Most concerning is the impact the current state of the buildings has on students. It is not uncommon for students to use words like 'miserable' or 'This school feels like prison' to describe the lack of joy being in school," George Washington High School social studies teacher Kevin Moore told the Tribune.

Other campaign goals listed by Sunrise Chicago include training programs for planet-friendly jobs, climate disaster response plans, and a curriculum that examines why our planet's temperatures are changing and the impact of an overheating Earth on historically marginalized and vulnerable communities.

Opportunities for community gardening and composting are also on the agenda, as well as access to healthy meals and public transit. 

And while CPS recently announced its intention to buy 50 electric school buses, according to the Tribune, GND4CPS hopes to take things further and secure a 100% electrified fleet. 

Diesel-powered buses release pollution linked to extreme weather events, including freezing polar vortex events and dangerous heat waves in Chicago, and their exhaust fumes have been linked to respiratory issues like asthma and decreased attendance at school

"We don't have much time left to fix the things that are making the world break down. We're often given the message that climate change is so far out there when it's currently affecting us, and people are struggling with it," Jalen Grimes, a senior at Jones College Prep, said at the GND4CPS launch event attended by students, parents, teachers, per the Tribune

According to Sunrise Chicago's official website, more GND4CPS meetings are on the slate, and there are options to start or join school or neighborhood teams. 

It isn't clear yet whether some of the campaign asks have been adopted or implemented, but community organizing and education are known ways to help create change. In February, the student senate at the University of Florida passed its own green initiative to reduce reliance on dirty energy.

"Together, we can ensure that the city of Chicago combats the climate crisis, builds community resilience, and rights historical injustices by investing in our public schools, especially those on the South and West Sides," Sunrise Chicago wrote on its website. 

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