Several Uptown Schools Eyed for Closure

By Adeshina Emmanuel on February 14, 2013 9:52am 

UPTOWN — Three Uptown schools — and an Edgewater school that draws much of its enrollment from Uptown — are being eyed for closure.

Joseph Brennemann, Graeme Stewart and Joseph Stockton elementary schools in Uptown, and Lyman Trumbull Elementary School in Edgewater are on a new list of schools targeted for closing by Chicago Public Schools.

All four are Ravenswood-Ridge network schools that serve a predominately low-income, minority student body. All are underutilized, according to CPS.

CPS officials said a huge drop in Chicago's school-age population has left a number of schools with empty classrooms in previous years, wasting resources in a budget crisis.

In November, Ald. James Cappleman (46th), who has spoken out against charter school takeovers in Uptown, told DNAinfo.com Chicago that he "wouldn't be surprised" if school closings hit Uptown in light of the high vacancy rate in area schools.

In December, Ravenswood-Ridge network chief Craig Benes said, "There's just not as many families with children at this point in time in that neighborhood as there were in the past."

But in January, chanting "Save our schools" and "No school closings," hundreds of parents, teachers and community members shouted down officials during a public hearing on school closings in the Ravenswood-Ridge network. Benes was heckled when he said he wanted "to just step away from the agenda for a moment and speak from my heart" and begged for the audience's attention.

Instead, the crowd chanted, "Save our schools! Save our schools!

Uptown parents expressed concern about the proliferation of charter schools and the closing of schools without accounting for the high percentage of special education and special needs students, and the shuffling of kids around in a neighborhood with ongoing gang tensions.

Keisha Williams, 28, who has a fifth grader and a kindergartner at Stewart school in Uptown, said that "the gang violence is going to be very chaotic" if that shuffle happens.
 
CPS is holding another public hearing at Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson Ave., at 11 a.m. Saturday.
 

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