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School Closings Infuriate Community

Chicago Defender Online, News Report, Wendell Hutson Posted: Mar 11, 2009

Last weeks decision by the school board to close or consolidate several Chicago public schools left parents, community groups and teachers up in arms.

Todays unanimous vote demonstrates it is not about improving schools for our children, said Chicago Teachers Union President Marilyn Stewart after the Feb. 25 school board meeting. During the Boards public participation session, educators; parents; residents all pleaded for a moratorium, and their pleas were disregarded.

However, Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman, said had the school board not approved changes to 16 schools, it would have only hurt students more.

Closing a school is not an easy task nor is it popular, he said. But it is our responsibility to be inclusive and open-minded so that we achieve an end result that benefits the students, parents, faculty and community.

The new school board president, Michael Scott, agreed.

What parent would want to send their child to a school where the majority of the students are under achieving? Scott questioned.

Some community groups had urged the board before voting to hold off on any closings until studies were complete on the effects of school closings. But now those same groups said they would engage their local politicians in the battle.

We are calling on our state senators and representatives to come up with a plan to prevent this kind of bleeding in the Black community, said the Rev. Louis Parks, a community organizer. The majority of the kids attending CPS are Black so it will affect Black kids the most.

The eight schools that will be either closed or consolidated this fall resulted from being underutilized, said CPS officials.

Princeton Elementary, 5125 S. Princeton Ave., and Foundations Elementary School, 2040 W. Adams St., are currently using 39 percent of its space. Abbott Elementary School, 3650 S. Wells St., which will also be consolidated, is using 11 percent.

CPS officials said Abbott has fewer than 150 students in a building equipped to house 1,050. But Abbott Principal Carol Hardin blames the redevelopment by the Chicago Housing Authority for her schools low enrollment.

Prior to CHA families relocating, Abbott had an enrollment of 350, but since the reconstruction of public housing in Bronzeville, many kids transferred out and never returned, she said. I am saddened that CPS wants to consolidate Abbott because this is a community school that has been here since the 1940s.

, Alderman Pat Dowell (3rd) said she supports the proposal to consolidate Abbott.

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