CHICAGO (CBS) — A dozen school activists paraded outside a Chicago Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, protesting what they said has been a five-year delay in cleaning up toxic lead paint from a Rogers Park elementary school.

The protesters claimed Chicago Public Schools officials have known since 2009 that there was lead-based paint contamination at Gale Elementary Community Academy, but didn’t start removing the paint until this year.

“What we want is to bring light to the fact that we had to pressure CPS into doing this cleanup,” protester Rosemary Vega said. “They didn’t do it out of the kind [sic] of their heart. They did it because they were being pressured, because the Light Brigade organizers were doing actions out there every day.”

Steve Serikaku, a retired CPS assistant principal, said the five-year delay in acting on the lead problem at Gale is a metaphor for a lack of responsiveness by the Board of Education.

“Obviously, this board is not accountable to the people,” he said. “In the five years that they took to do this, thousands of students, and their families, and teachers were exposed to potentially extremely harmful lead contamination.”

The activists did not offer up any evidence that children had been harmed by lead-based paint at Gale, but said cleaning up the lead paint would not end the problem.

“How many other schools in the system are similarly affected?” Serikaku said.

Members of the Chicago Light Brigade – a community activist group that routinely uses illuminated handheld signs at protest rallies – also have claimed the district has ignored requests to repair a malfunctioning fire alarm system, leaking roofs, broken security cameras, defective burglar alarms, a broken intercom, damaged water pumps, and non-locking doors on the stalls in girls’ bathrooms.

Serikaku and Vega promoted the idea of an elected school board – something Mayor Rahm Emanuel has indicated is a non-starter.

The protesters called for independent investigation of possible contamination lead paint contamination at all public schools in Chicago, a prompt response to Freedom of Information requests sent to the board, and CPS evaluation of children who might have been affected by lead paint exposure at Gale.

CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey sais in a statement, “Chicago Public Schools’ top priority is the safety and well-being of its students, teachers and staff. Our facilities team continuously monitors buildings for any unsafe conditions, which includes preventing any buildings with lead-based paints from posing a health threat. A precautionary measure, CPS will be evaluating Gale Math and Science Academy this evening and determine what steps, if any, are necessary to provide students with a healthy learning environment.”