High lead levels persist at Wentworth Elementary School; endangers CPS students


by Diana Adeniyi, Annel Lopez and Anaja Smith

The city of Chicago is in the middle of a water crisis, but a lack of confirmation from city government is obscuring the issue from the mainstream. High levels of lead have been present in the city’s water for several years now, but it’s been almost impossible to plot out the source or solution to this epidemic. Chicago’s public schools are not immune to the lead issue, putting one of the most vulnerable populations – students – at high risk of lead poisoning. One in six schools has tested above the action level for lead in their drinking water. Wentworth Elementary, located on the South Side, is one example.

In this story, Real Chi Youth reporters Diana Adeniyi, Annel Lopez and Anaja Smith sat down with Iayasha Thompson, a parent of two children who attend Wentworth, and Dr. Davinda Gerena, a pediatrician who works for Access Community Health Network in the Chicagoland Area

Iayasha and her children, middle schoolers Jakayla and Jaequon, discussed their experiences with the contaminated water at Wentworth. They complained about the daily struggles they face such as having to bring their own bottled water from home and use hand sanitizer before lunch. We also talked to Dr. Gerena who said that “a lot of people aren’t even aware of the problem.” But even if they are not aware, their children are still being exposed to the many detrimental effects of lead, such as missing out on key learning milestones and developing learning disabilities. Moreover, she explained that the water infrastructure needs a complete overhaul, which will cost millions of dollars.

We reached out to the administration at CPS for an update on the lead testing schedule. They’ve yet to comment, but families like the Thompsons are still waiting on the clean water that they deserve.

This story was produced with contributions from City Bureau reporters Sarah Conway and Calvin Rashaud.