Community rallies against school closures

December 8, 2012 (CHICAGO)

It's a rallying cry as a community comes together to fight against school closures and charter school expansion.

"We are invested in our children, we want to see them succeed," said elementary teacher Monique Redeaux.

The Education Summit on School Closings, hosted by the Chicago Teachers Union comes just after school officials announced during a Friday meeting to decide what schools will close next year the addition of six new charter and contract schools to the nine it's already proposing to open in September 2013.

"We see that pattern solidifying and becoming more of a threat," said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.

So, parents and the concerned packed into classrooms at Marshall High School on the city's West Side in hopes of bringing change.

"When schools close, children lose out," said parent Saria Lofton.

Still, some, like frustrated Doretha Coleman remain frustrated with the city's traditional public education system, sought out options at this year's New School Expo.

"Class size is a real issue for me and students getting what they need, not just a cookie cutter education," Coleman said.

High school junior Thomas Smith is looking to be challenged.

"It's too easy," he said. "I want a school that will give me a challenge."

"Parents are frustrated with CPS what's going on at this time so they are coming to charter schools," said Shatondrig Wade of Chicago International Charter Schools.

The sixth annual school fair featured more than 130 public schools including many charters.

"We do have 19,000 students on the waiting list for charter schools," said New Schools for Chicago CEO Phyllis Lockett. "There's over 32,000 on the list for selective enrollment schools so the demand is out there and parents are voting with their feet."

But not everyone here is convinced.

"Some of the charter schools are not performing as well as the neighborhood schools," said community activist Larry Ligas.

But for the Bahenas, it's about finding the best school for their daughter Sophia's education.

"What's the best school in Chicago right now," Gabriela Bahena said.

Many parents and community groups say they will do what they can to make sure neighborhood schools stay open.

The Chicago Board of Education takes up the issue of new charter schools for approval at its December 19 meeting.

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