School closings bus tour rolls through town

April 4, 2013 2:52:19 PM PDT
The school closings bus tour rolled through the streets of Chicago Thursday. The event was sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union, which opposes the closing of public schools in the city.

The CTU says people do not understand how disruptive and possibly dangerous the plan to close 54 under-performing CPS schools is. They filled up a bus with their supporters, as well as elected officials, who joined them in their call for a moratorium on school closings in Chicago.

"I'm not sure that just closing schools are going to necessarily result in a higher quality of education," said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis.

CPS parent Jymmett Penson could see no reason why Mahalia Jackson Elementary School needs to be closed.

"They feel safe with us, and we've known a lot of children since pre-school and kindergarten, so that's like breaking up a family," said Penson.

Penson's kids will trek about a mile to fort Dearborn Elementary, crossing gang boundaries for a promise of better facilities.

"There is no real positives numbers coming out of the charter school, so if there's a movement here to privates schools, we better uncover it soon," said 2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti.

That sentiment pervades the tour bus as it passed by Guggenheim Elementary, a case study, the union says, of a school closing from last year gone wrong.

"At the ending kids became very upset. They broke down, they cried, they couldn't understand," said parent Sherri Dabney-Parker. "Most of the kids here started in kindergarten, and they went through eighth grade, so they were like family."

The climax of the tour: a mile walk through urban blight that students from closing Melody Elementary will endure to get to their receiving school, Delano Elementary, which will be renamed Melody.

"We are asking students, who are the most vulnerable people in our communities, to absorb a budget deficit, to absorb mass movement," said the Chicago Teachers Union's Stacy Davis Gates.

"There's never been nothing in this city, nothing but promises made and not kept, and this is the same old thing, and we're sick and tired of broken promises," said Rep. Rush.

But, nearby a non-profit says there's little vitriol on the footsteps where they're explaining block-by-block how the school consolidation will unfold.

"What they're most pleased about is that their school that their child is now leaving a failing school and going to a school that's either a Level 2 or a Level 1 ," said Stand for Children's Donna Hardy.

Late Thursday afternoon, CPS put out a statement, saying, the school-closing plan is about getting kids out of the trap of bad schools. They stressed, any kid who has to move is going to be going to a better school.