48 CPS schools to close in Chicago, 1 delayed a year - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Board votes to close 49 CPS schools, 1 high school program

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Chicago Board of Education made its final decision Wednesday afternoon - to close 48 Chicago Public Schools and one high school program in June, with one school delayed a year and to save five others.

TO REMAIN OPEN:

  • Miriam G Canter Middle - delayed one year
  • Leif Ericson
  • Marcus Garvey
  • Mahalia Jackson
  • George Manierre Elementary

TO CLOSE:

  • Altgeld
  • Armstrong
  • Attucks
  • Banneker
  • Bethune
  • Bontempts
  • Buckingham
  • Calhoun
  • Canter
  • De Duprey
  • Delano
  • Dumas
  • Emmet
  • Fermi
  • Garfield Park
  • Goldblatt
  • Goodlow
  • Henson
  • Herbert
  • Key
  • King
  • Kohn
  • Lafayette
  • Lawrence
  • Marconi
  • May
  • Mayo
  • Morgan
  • Near North
  • Overton
  • Owens
  • Paderwski
  • Parkman
  • Peabody
  • Pershing MS
  • Pope
  • Ross
  • Ryerson
  • Sexton
  • Songhai
  • Stewart
  • Stockton
  • Trumbull
  • Von Humboldt
  • West Pullman
  • Williams ES
  • Williams MS
  • Woods
  • Yale

TO RELOCATE:

  • Kellman relocates to Bethune

The ambitious proposal that sparked protests and lawsuits could help define -- for better or worse -- Mayor Rahm Emanuel's term in office. The board voted Wednesday.

City officials say the closings are necessary because of falling school enrollment and as part of their efforts to improve the city's struggling education system. But critics have blasted Emanuel and schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, saying the closings disproportionately affect minority neighborhoods and will endanger children who may have to cross gang boundaries to get to a new school.

CTU President Karen Lewis put out a statement Wednesday after the board vote calling the decision "bad governance" and a "day of mourning for the children of Chicago." And she says their education "has been hijacked." Earlier protesters rallied during the board's meeting. They also sent busloads of teachers, parents and students to Springfield to lobby lawmakers to approve a moratorium on the closings.

CPS Closings: Garvey, Manierre schools expected to be spared

FOX 32 learned Tuesday night from a source that some school board members felt strongly that Garvey and Manierre should be given and individual vote when it came to closings them - or be spared altogether.

The Chicago Teachers Union has been very public regarding their disapproval of the plan to close more than 50 elementary schools in the Chicago Public School District. They say that the school have not been evaluated properly, and that the schools slated for closure do not deserve to be closed.

Union president Karen Lewis told Good Day Chicago on Wednesday morning that she believes it to be unfortunate that Mayor Emanuel supports closing schools as an education policy. She says that the teachers know it does not work.

But when asked about the four elementary schools being saved at the last minute, Karen Lewis said, "It's a victory for parents coming together - a victory for activism."

Protesting parents, teachers, staff and some students gathered outside school board headquarters at Clark and Adams downtown Wednesday morning, to make their disagreement with the CPS closings plan explicitly clear.

While parents understand that some schools do have to close, many more are afraid for their kids' safety, worried that their children will not make it to school along some new routes that may take them across gang territory lines.

Stand for Children Illinois director Juan Jose Gonzalez told FOX 32 News Wednesday that his group members are happy with how open the board has been when communicating with parents on the day of the vote. He said Stand for Children understands that changes need to be made. They understand that resources need to be re-allocated in order for Chicago students to get a better education from the district.

Gonzalez said that parents understand the money for schools in the City of Chicago to be "tapped out," and that the focus needs to be shifted to Springfield, so that CPS parents can make sure the district is helped by the state education fund.

One CPS parent and former educator - whose child is not affected by the closures - believes the process should have been more open and inclusive, to build a better informed community, before effecting change.

She understands that with a system in the condition like that of CPS, some schools will have to close and resources will have to be redistributed to give kids a better education. But she also said parents, local businesses, bigger sponsors, teachers, staff and students need to be included in the process to successfully effect change.

Ald. Joe Moreno of the 1st ward made a level-headed and moving argument against closing CPS schools, specifically those in East Humboldt Park. Improvements were supposed to be made to Lafayette Elementary School. But when they were not completed, the school did not perform as well as it anticipated it would with that investment on improvement. The school was eventually put on the CPS list of schools to close.

"It's sort of like we pushed the parents and teachers at Lafayette into the pool, and CPS blamed them for being wet," Ald. Moreno said.

The 1st ward alderman also addressed the issue of safety Wednesday morning.

"The best way to ensure safety is to keep schools open," Moreno said.

Moreno told the school board that he is proud to represent the schools in East Humboldt Park, and that the vibrant community has a plan for success - they just need to be given the chance to carry out the plan in which they have so much invested. 

"All we need for you to do is vote your conscience," Moreno said. "Vote your heart."

Humboldt Park resident Rousemary Vega made a personal attack on Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Wednesday. Vega asked how she could subject Lafayette special ed students to school closings and re-location.

"How can you have it in your heart, as a grandmother, to attack these children?" Vega asked.

Vega said that if Byrd-Bennett did one thing right – in her opinion - she roused the community to voice their opposition as one.

"You have made our community come together and fight."

After the school board congratulated CTU President Karen Lewis on her re-election, the typically outspoken union leader made a reserved and even-keeled statement.

"I would hope that whatever decision you all make today that you can live with it. I think that's extraordinarily important," Lewis said. "I personally feel you're on the wrong side of history, and history will judge you."

Lewis wants the stigma of probation removed from the conversation when it comes to education reform in Chicago.

"I would hope that… everybody now starts from scratch," Lewis said. "I don't want to hear the next time I come in here this school's been on probation for 17 years. You all keep moving the bar. Everybody should start from scratch. If this is your master plan, let's not carry over any of the ugliness. Let's move forward."

Lewis said, sounding much like the veteran educator that she is, that she wants to hear a new plan for Chicago Public Schools – one that works, and will give these kids the best education the district can give.

"I am so willing to work with you on that. I'm not willing - ever going to be willing - to do craziness," Lewis said. "We also need so time to let whatever you've done work. Last year it was longer school days. I hope you all are studying that, that you have some kind of metrics behind that. Did it work? Did it not work? Let's stop rushing so that every 15 minutes we're doing something else. A system this large needs to have time to reflect, understand best practices, and then move on."

Lewis said that in talking about making education better, she is 100% willing to work with the school board – not when they're talking about politics.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett addressed the protesters on Wednesday, before the Chicago Board of Education. She spoke on why the district put the closure plan together in the first place.

"The system does have to change," Byrd-Bennett said. "We have the opportunity to redirect resources to what matters. I know that resources matter. Our children do matter and it matters that the status quo aren't acceptable for our children."

Byrd-Bennett also addressed the personal attack made on her during the public comment section of the hearing.

"Despite some outrageous claims that I really quite frankly do find repulsive," Byrd-Bennett said. "In no way do we - do I - want to see any child hurt."

After explaining how the district would carry out the plan and why the changes needed to take place, she addressed how difficult a change she knew these closures would be. She said she knew the process would be hard, but quoted Dr. Martin Luther King to help impress why CPS is doing what it is doing.

"Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right?" Byrd-Bennett read. "And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right."

Ald. Bob Fioretti has been one of the most vocal local leaders to oppose the school closings plan. As he addressed the school board on Wednesday, he questioned the credibility of the reasons for closing more than 50 schools, saying that they are "constantly changing."

Fioretti also questioned the numerous services the district said they would provide for students to get them to and from school safely, as well as keep them from experiencing violence in their new schools. He isn't sure CPS will be able to provide them effectively, since the personnel being asked to guide these kids are also the people who are supposed to be protecting the city from crime and emergencies.

Fioretti also questioned whether any money would actually be saved in closing these CPS elementary schools, since it costs a lot of money to close in the first place. It will also cost money to send displaced students to their welcoming schools and accommodate them there.

Fioretti testified that he was astounded by the passion he has seen from the community as the fight to keep their schools open. He also wondered if Mayor Emanuel had attended a single CPS closure hearing.

"Over the past few months, I've attended over a dozen hearings concerning the school closing. I've been startled by what I see. The families that have to put up standing in long lines in the cold with babies in arms waiting for testify in the defense of their schools. I can't ever remember seeing such a public outcry in defense of neighborhood schools. It's extending to every corner of this city, and it won't stop here today. Tens of thousands of Chicagoans attended these hearings, and I am hardened by the determination and passion of parents and teachers to defend and improve their schools."

Fioretti also spoke to what he says his constituents want most: A stable, well-resourced neighborhood school.

He concluded his statement with a firm recommendation: A moratorium on closing any CPS schools for at least the next year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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