Southwest Side Braces for More CPS School Closings Forums

By Casey Cora on February 19, 2013 6:17am 

 Members of the Bridgeport Alliance and SOUL groups protested what they believed is a privatization of public education through the addition of charter schools at a Feb. 6, 2013, CPS forum.
Members of the Bridgeport Alliance and SOUL groups protested what they believed is a privatization of public education through the addition of charter schools at a Feb. 6, 2013, CPS forum.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

CHICAGO — With CPS whittling down its list of schools slated for potential closure, activists on the Southwest Side are rallying the community in an effort to save their neighborhood schools.

They’ll start with a workshop scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday at Benton House, 3052 S. Gratten Ave. The meeting is sponsored by the Bridgeport Alliance and Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation (SOUL) community groups.

It’s a lead-up to the next CPS forum for the Pershing Network, where seven schools remain on a list for potential closure by CPS. That forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Fuller Park Fieldhouse, 331 W. 45th St.

Joe Trutin, a McKinley Park resident and member of the local school council for Holden Elementary, is helping to organize Tuesday's workshop. He said organizers will offer a brief background on the school closure issue and give participants strategies for taking action.

He's hoping to see a big turnout — both from schools that are on the list and those that aren't. After all, if CPS shutters a neighborhood school next year, its students will have to go somewhere.

"Just because a school won't be closed doesn't mean their won't be an effect for them," he said.

Network Chief Victor Simon has said parents and school communities should be focusing on specific programs that are beneficial to each school, then highlighting those programs at Thursday's CPS forum.

Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Monday said she's encouraging residents to get involved at the CPS-hosted meetings.

“I need as much feedback as possible to inform my decisions and my ultimate recommendations to the Board of Education," she said in a statement. "Every voice matters in ensuring a high-quality, well-rounded education for every student in every neighborhood.”

It’s unlikely that representatives from all of the network's 31 schools will show up Thursday — many high-performing or overcrowded schools didn’t attend the network’s first forum on Feb. 6.

But plenty of frustrated parents and faculty members from affected schools did, and they packed the standing-room-only auditorium to voice their concerns.

Now organizers are hoping parents and faculty from all neighborhood schools will band together.

Mary Welter, with the Bridgeport Alliance, said organizers will provide participants at Tuesday's grassroots workshop with information such as school enrollment numbers, utilization figures, test scores and more — some of it outdated or inaccurate.

"I want them to make sure their school's information is correct, and then they'll go to Thursday's meeting with something more substantial to show and carry with them. ... Hopefully that will work," she said.

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