HUMBOLDT PARK — Perhaps it's no surprise that five Humboldt Park schools would land on the CPS possible school closure list. In December, CPS listed more than two-thirds of the neighborhoods schools as "underutilized."
That doesn't make it any less frustrating for parents and teachers at those schools, which are all attended by predominantly low-income students and are nearly 100 percent minority.
Especially frustrated are those at Jean D. Lafayette Elementary School at 2714 W. Augusta Blvd.
Lafayette has 30 percent special education students, more than double the average at other schools, which hover between 10 and 15 percent special ed.
"When I saw the list [Wednesday] night all I could do was cry," said Valerie Nelson, 42-year-old mother of two Lafayette students and chair of the Local School Council. "My first response was tears."
Nelson's 6-year-old daughter, Leza, has autism, while her 12-year-old, Tesa, has ADHD. She said they attend Lafayette because it is well-equipped to deal with children like hers.
Of Lafayette's 484 students, 166 are special ed, with disabilities that range from behavior or speech problems to more severe disorders including autism and Down syndrome.
Nelson chose to send her daughters to Lafayette specifically for its autism program. With all its special amenities and programs catering to special needs kids, she and other parents worry about what they will do if Lafayette is closed.
"We have a sensory room gym, a fine motor skills room, an occupational therapist with six to eight kids," she said. "In other schools, they would pull them [special ed kids] out and teach them in the hallway. Since our school is so big we have the extra resources room, and more socialization."
With an "ideal" enrollment of about 1,320 students, Lafayette's 484 puts it only a little over one-third capacity.
The numbers aren't much better for the other four schools on the list — Ryerson, Piccolo, Von Humboldt and Duprey.
According to CPS, all are more than half empty, with the exception of Ryerson, which sits at about two-thirds of capacity.
"I really don't think any school needs to be closed," said Teresa Wilson, as she walked her 6-year-old grandson home from Ryerson Elementary School.
Ryerson, which serves Humboldt Park as well as large parts of Garfield Park, is 97.2 percent low-income and 97.7 percent of its students are black.
"He [my grandson] needs to be in school learning, know what I'm saying? But who wants to be traveling farther to go to school?" she said.
For another Ryerson parent, it's a matter of necessity.
Perry Foster does not have a car and walks his 4-year-old old son to and from school. He also worries about the dangers of busing into a different neighborhood, if Ryerson closes.
"Man, that'd be a disaster," he said.
This week, CPS launched its second round of "community engagement" meetings to further discuss possible closures now that the list has been whittled down to 129 schools.
The next meeting for the Fulton Network, which includes Lafayette, Von Humboldt and Duprey, will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 26 at First Baptist Congregational Church, 1613 W. Washington Blvd.
The next meeting for the Garfield-Humboldt Network, which includes Ryerson and Piccolo, will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 27 at Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church, 2622 W. Jackson Blvd.