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Friends of Brennemann, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Brennemann Elementary School, is fundraising to renovate its teachers lounge. Credit: Provided/MDT Architecture

UPTOWN — Neighbors are raising funds to fix up Brennemann Elementary School's teachers lounge.

Friends of Brennemann, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the Uptown elementary school at 4251 N. Clarendon Ave., recently launched a GoFundMe with a goal of $20,000 to renovate the school's teachers lounge, said Jenny Maraccini, board member and parent to a Brennemann student.

The group had raised just over $3,000 as of Wednesday morning.

When discussing ways to improve the school, Brennemann Principal Patrina Singleton suggested a fundraiser to overhaul the chaotic teachers lounge, giving staff a place to decompress and prepare lessons during the school day, Maraccini and fellow board member Lisa Von Drehle said.

The nonprofit asked Brenneman teachers to fill out a survey answering questions about what they'd like to have in the teachers lounge plus what's working and what's not working with their current setup.

Teachers described the lounge as “crowded,” “cluttered,” “cramped” and “like a storage room” in a video made by Friends of Brennemann.

“We found out largely the space is not utilized because temperature control is a big issue, poor lighting and comfortable seating — it's just very cluttered,” Maraccini said. “One teacher told us she often chooses to eat lunch in her car versus the teachers lounge because it's just more comfortable and calming.”

YouTube video

Friends of Brennemann enlisted MDT Architecture, an Uptown-based firm, to redesign the lounge.

Improved lighting, running water, a microwave, additional seating, new paint and flooring are some of the biggest improvements Friends of Brennemann hopes to bring to the teachers lounge.

“In a way, it would have been easier to start with something that was clearly, directly children-focused, but from the principal who's in there every day and making it work, she knows that unless the teachers are really properly supported, that the kids aren't going to get supported,” Von Drehle said.

Starting Wednesday, Friends of Brennemann is pushing to raise $10,000 in 10 days for the GoFundMe. The members would like to fund the project by mid-June so renovations can happen before school starts in the fall.

Teachers at Brennemann Elementary School described the current state of the teachers lounge as “crowded,” “cramped,” “cluttered” and “like a storage room.” Credit: Provided/Friends of Brennemann
Friends of Brennemann, a nonprofit dedicated to supporting Brennemann Elementary School, is fundraising to renovate its teachers lounge. Credit: Provided/MDT Architecture

Friends of Brennemann formed in 2022 after Uptown neighbors like Von Drehle, also the former president of Buena Park Neighbors, got together to engage the community in helping the local school.

The school has had issues in the past, including a former principal and administrators who were accused of stealing nearly $250,000 from Chicago Public Schools in a fraudulent overtime scheme. Brennemann has since gotten new leadership, and the school received a new playground in 2021.

While Von Drehle was leading Buena Park Neighbors, one of her biggest goals was to get neighbors more involved in supporting Brennemann, she said.

“We believe that by making our local schools stronger, we make our communities stronger,” she said.

About 90 percent of Brennemann students are on free or subsidized lunches, with many parents working multiple jobs, and families might not have the resources or capacity to fundraise and volunteer at the school, Von Drehle said

“Those of us who came together to organize Friends of Brennemann, our motto is: The parents might not have the bandwidth, but the community does,” Von Drehle said.

CPS spokesperson Evan Moore said in a statement the district will work with Brennemann staff and supporters to make sure the project follows CPS guidelines and governmental regulations surrounding construction in schools.

“We are grateful for the generosity of partners and nonprofit groups who also share their valuable resources to enhance our facilities for the benefit of our students and/or staff,” he said in the statement.

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