Parents at Graham, Hendricks Question CPS Closure List

By Casey Cora on February 15, 2013 6:51am 

 Parents outside Graham Elementary said they were bewildered to learn the school landed on a preliminary list for school closings by CPS.
Parents outside Graham Elementary said they were bewildered to learn the school landed on a preliminary list for school closings by CPS.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

CANARYVILLE — Parents who waited for their children to exit Alexander Graham Elementary School said they are angry and confused about the school’s inclusion on a list of public schools slated for potential closure by CPS.

“The schools aren’t bad. The kids aren’t bad. But this is Canaryville and nobody cares about Canaryville,” said Connie Johnston, 59, a Graham graduate who said she’s put her 15 children and nine grandchildren through the school. “It’s sad what this is doing to the kids.”

CPS on Wednesday released a list of 129 schools that may be closed by the start of next school year as it looks to close a budget gap they say has swelled to $1 billion. Seven schools were from Pershing Network on the southwest side.

The school district has said the list isn't final, and will remain under consideration until the remaining community feedback meetings have been conducted.

Graham principal John Nichols said he feels “very positive” that the school — considered by CPS as underutilized and on academic probation — will be removed from the list, but declined further comment until the next community feedback forum for the network, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Fuller Park Fieldhouse, 331 W. 45th St.

Several parents didn’t share the principal's optimism.

One mother who was walking away from the school with her four Graham students said she isn’t making any backup plans “because I just don’t believe it yet.” Another wondered aloud how she'd be able to afford tuition at St. Gabriel, a nearby Catholic school.

Victor Simon, the Pershing Network chief, said now that the initial list has been released by CPS, parents and faculty within the affected schools should be focusing their efforts on highlighting the values of school programs, then bring those concerns to Thursday’s forum.

Over at Hendricks Elementary, some parents walked away from the school, 4316 S. Princeton Ave., clutching pamphlets publicizing a rally before Thursday's forum.

 Hendricks Elementary, 4316 S. Princeton Ave., is on a preliminary list of schools slated for closure by CPS.
Hendricks Elementary, 4316 S. Princeton Ave., is on a preliminary list of schools slated for closure by CPS.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

One mother who lives across the street from the school and asked to be identified only by her first name, Lorraine, said she was concerned about the future for her son, a 3-year-old preschooler at Hendricks, where an overwhelming number of the school's students, some 97 percent, are low-income.

The school, she said, was recently remodeled "with money they say they ain't got." 

"They're going to close Hendricks. They're gonna close Graham, which is so close to here. So what are we supposed to do? What do they want?"

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