Parents unwelcoming of school move

March 22, 2013 3:20:07 PM PDT
The Chicago Public School closings are causing tension in some neighborhoods, and parents and students at one school took their battle over the changes to the streets Friday.

Two schools half a mile apart in East Garfield Park are supposed to become one, but at present, the welcome mat is not out.

Laura Ward Elementary on the West Side is on the closing list, but the students, the staff, and the name are all being moved several blocks north to Ryerson, another K through 8 which will become the new Laura Ward elementary.

Some of the Ryerson parents are not happy and are not prepared to welcome students from Ward.

"I don't know whatever community conflict there might be. I'm blaming it on gangbangers," said Ryerson parent Torrence Shorter.

"They bring weapons up here to harm our children, and so you don't want them in your building? We don't want them anywhere near our school," fellow Ryerson parent Rosalind Jackson said.

To show their displeasure, a group of Ryerson parents had arranged what they had hoped would be a student walk-out joined by faculty. That did not happen.

"We had several teachers tell us the principal said, 'Lock the classrooms. The kids cannot come out,'" said Janice Norfleet, Ryerson School Council.

Suddenly the fire alarm went off. A handful of students came out, but most remained inside.

Since a fire alarm was pulled, the fire department came, three rigs and a command vehicle. A parent comforted a student who was crying because she thought her school is on fire. Since there's been a false alarm at a school the police department arrives to ask questions. People were angry.

"Instead of being in high school dropping out, they'll be in elementary dropping out."

Part of the anger here is because of kids coming from another school, because some of the teachers here will lose their jobs, and because it's a change in history and tradition at a building that's always carried the name Ryerson.

"You've taken away a lot and that's why a lot of parents are very vocal because you're taking away another home," said parent Cicely Shorter.

But the big picture intent for CPS is to make underutilized schools into better homes for learning.

Getting there will require walking through a lot of emotion.

Police haven't determined who pulled the fire alarm.