CPS school closings list released

March 21, 2013 8:41:37 PM PDT
Chicago Public Schools leaders released a long-anticipated list Thursday of the schools that will close.

DOCUMENT: List of 54 schools to close

Fifty-four Chicago public schools are slated to close. Eleven will be co-locations and six schools are turnarounds, making for a total of 71 school actions.

Talk of closing schools has sparked angry responses with parents, teachers and community groups.

Thursday night Mayor Rahm Emanuel, issued the following statement: "Over the past decade, this decision was delayed while we put more money into keeping buildings open rather than investing it where it should be in our children's education.

"Consolidating schools is the best way to make sure all of our city's students get the resources they need to learn and succeed."

A CPS spokesperson said that the empty schools will be sold and removed from the footprint and teachers follow the students to the welcoming schools and those who do not will receive support from the CPS.

"This is cowardly and it's the ultimate bullying job," said Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

"We're stabilizing our district so we can build the academic performance," CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennet said.

From parent pickets to protests, whether it was displaying anger at schools or school board members, the list of 50 plus schools closures began to leak out before the morning bell rang.

The schools affected sent students and parents home with packets telling them their options.

Now that the list is out and the pickets, protests and press conferences are just beginning.

"These decisions aren't going to make people happy but I do believe as some point we have a ton to consider what's in the best interest of the children," Byrd-Bennett said in an appearance on ABC7's Newsviews Thursday.

The district can no longer afford to keep under enrolled schools open and most are on the South and West sides where population has declined, she said.

Many parents are questioning whether CPS's decisions will be the right thing for students.

"I think instead of closing school down, you build it up," parent Dominique White said.

CPS says students will be moved safely to higher performing schools that will receive more resources but parents are concerned that consolidation means overcrowding.

On Thursday the principal of Lafayette Elementary in Humboldt Park read teachers a letter from CPS that said the school is among those that CPS plans to close, teacher Rosemary Maurello told the Associate Press.

At Lafayette School, parents and students are worried about the school's 166 special needs students.

Although final decisions on closures will not be made until May after more community meetings and budget reviews, the CPS letter mentioned that Lafayette students will be moved to a school about 10 blocks away and letters and information packets are being sent to parents already, according to Maurello.

"It sounds like a done deal to me," she told the AP.

Since she has tenure, Maurello will be able to move to another school but she worries about how some of the students will be able to get to school safely.

"I truly believe that it's going to be chaos," she said.

CPS reports Lafayette is on academic probation, the building is half full and that students will transfer to Chopin Elementary, which has the district's highest academic rating.

Parents worry special education students will be segregated too much.

"I don't want my kid to be just with special kids," said Valarie Nelson, parent of an autistic student. "I want them to see what normal life is like. I want my kid to come out of her shell."

Closing Lafayette means the city's largest elementary orchestra program will end.

"There is no way to bring this exact program to life at another school," said Layfayette's music and orchestral conductor, Arturs Weible.

"Everything I've seen, everything I've been through, the concerts and everything were all ruined and that's hard to see that everything I've been through go to a memory," said Basali Pinto.

In East Garfield Park, closing Calhoun Elementary raises safety concerns.

"If you know anything about the gangs in Chicago, crossing Madison Street for our children will be very problematic because the gang lines are integrated into the neighborhood," said Calhoun Elementary's Ruthie Moore.

Students will cross Madison to get Cather Elementary. Calhoun is not on academic probation, but CPS says it's half full. Calhoun supporters argue it's not about numbers.

"The board doesn't see it that way, that it's about the kids," said Leonard Conway, Local School Council. "It's more about, money issues, for them."

CPS is trying to trim a $400 million budget deficit.

More hearings will be held in April and May so parents can express their concerns.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.