Chicago Public Schools Builds Campus over 38,000 Unmarked Graves

Russian historian Yury Dmitriyev spent decades locating and exhuming mass graves of those killed in summary executions during Stalin's rule
AFP/File Alexander NEMENOV

Chicago Public Schools is in the process of building a $70 million public school campus on more than 38,000 unmarked graves.

The project has been 15 years in the making for the northwestern Chicago neighborhood of Dunning—construction workers have been on the lookout for human remains in the area, which used to be the site where the Cook County Poor House once stood, the Chicago Tribune reported.

“There can be, and there have been bodies found all over the place,” said cemetery researcher and genealogist Barry Fleig, who began investigating the site in 1989. “It’s a spooky, scary place.”

The remains are believed to have been destitute residents who could not afford funeral expenses, patients from the county insane asylum, or other unclaimed bodies.

Contracts for the site state that the proposed project would be a middle school, but city alderman Nicholas Sposato, who represents the city’s 38th Ward, said the campus could be a high school.

“I’m sure they’re gonna be on top of some graves, but this is progress,” Sposato said. “It’s an economic boom for the community.”

The school is expected to open at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. The campus would span 135,000 square feet and be able to hold up to 1,200 students.

If construction workers do uncover any remains while building the school, it would be up to the Illinois State Museum to decide what to do with them, according to the Illinois Human Skeletal Remains Act.

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