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Kelvyn Park High School Throws Out Hundreds Of Classic Books; Neighbors Are Outraged

KELVYN PARK — Hundreds of classic books at Kelvyn Park High School were tossed out last week, sparking outrage among neighbors.

Photos of the high school’s book-filled dumpster started circulating widely online over the weekend, with angry commenters saying the books shouldn’t have been thrown out or, at the very least, should’ve been donated to local organizations.

The mountain of discarded books included copies of “Hamlet,” “Crime And Punishment” and “The Metamorphosis,” among other classics.

“I was so upset because these are not any books — these are classics,” said nearby resident Ruth Torres, who wrote about the books on Facebook.

“They had Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, they had so many. And it was like, Wow, these are books that I grew up reading that transformed my life and my perspective. I was like, Why would they get rid of these in that fashion? There’s so many different ways to distribute books that are not in use.”

In response to the posts, several neighbors rescued books from the dumpster — and the rain — over the weekend, Torres said. A local girl scout troop Torres oversees is planning to fill little libraries with some of the recovered books.

Credit: Courtesy of Ruth Torres
Some of the recovered books.

CPS officials said Kelvyn Park High School is currently undergoing renovations, and the books were “weeded” out as part of that process.

“Weeding” is an essential process to ensure schools keep a relevant book collection. Condition, usage in the curriculum or providing wrong or dated information are among the factors considered in the weeding process, according to CPS policy.

“All students deserve access to proper reading materials that will enrich their academic experience and we appreciate that the community has expressed such an interest. The discarded books were outdated, in poor condition, and no longer fit for classroom use. The books were disposed of properly only after alternatives were exhausted,” CPS spokeswoman Emily Bolton said in a written statement.

Kelvyn Park High School’s principal didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.

The Hermosa high school is far from the first Chicago public school to throw out books in large numbers — and generate frustration in doing so; the situation has played out at many CPS schools over the years.

Senn High School in Edgewater made headlines in 2019 for throwing out hundreds of copies of classic books, including “The Great Gatsby” and “Hiroshima.”

At the time, CPS officials said the books were “weeded” out after another high school moved out of Senn’s building.

Hundreds of books were also thrown out at Foreman High School in 2016. The Portage Park school tossed out textbooks, many of them still shrink-wrapped.

CPS officials and Foreman’s then-principal said the books were outdated and were disposed of in accordance with the district’s policy.

Lee Helmer, executive director of the Hermosa Neighborhood Association, a community group that works closely with Kelvyn Park High School, said it’s important school leaders aren’t blamed for tossing out the books. They’re doing the best they can with limited resources, Helmer said.

Kelvyn Park High School at 4343 W. Wrightwood Ave. enrolls mostly Hispanic students from families who have low incomes, according to CPS.

“If we want to save these books, if people are worried about saving the books, then communities and community organizations like Hermosa Neighborhood Association need volunteers to connect with the schools and make those connections to get those books moved before they end up in the dumpster,” Helmer said.

To volunteer with Hermosa Neighborhood Association, visit the group’s website.

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