CPS School Closings: 'I Am Completely Disgusted'

By DNAinfo Staff  on March 21, 2013 9:18am  | Updated on March 21, 2013 5:20pm

CHICAGO — Before Chicago Public Schools announced Thursday which schools they plan to close as part of a citywide cost-cutting move, some schools are already learning their fate.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LIST OF 54 SCHOOLS TARGETED FOR CLOSURE AND LATEST CPS RESPONSE

Teachers at Joseph Stockton Elementary School, 4420 N. Beacon St. in Uptown, told DNAinfo.com Chicago Thursday morning that their school would be merging with Mary E. Courtenay Elementary School, 1726 W. Berteau Ave. in Ravenswood.

Staffers at at Jean D. Lafayette Elementary School, 2714 W. Augusta Blvd., and Ryerson Elementary School, 646 N. Lawndale Ave., confirmed the two Humboldt Park schools are also among the 55 or so elementary schools CPS plans to shutter to help plug a projected $400 million budget deficit.

A representative from Peabody School, 1444 W. Augusta Blvd. in West Town, confirmed the school is on the closure list. Principal Federico Flores met with teachers and parents Thursday morning to break the news. A source said Peabody would merge with Otis Elementary School, 525 N. Armour St.

Also slated for closure are Enrico Fermi Elementary School, 1415 E. 70th St. in Greater Grand Crossing, and Miriam G. Canter Middle School, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave. in Kenwood, according to a tweet from parent group Raise Your Hand; and Lyman Trumbull Elementary School, 5200 N. Ashland Ave. in Andersonville, and Stewart Elementary School, 4525 N. Kenmore Ave. in Uptown, according to school officials.

Near North Elementary School, 729 N. Ada St. in West Town, also is closing, school clerk Maria Cifuentes said, adding students would be sent to Moses Montefiore Academy at 1310 Ashland Ave.

"All of the staff, we don't know what's gonna happen," Cifuentes said. "Well, we do: They already told us — we don't have a job.

"It's horrible."

In some cases, the issue of whether a school would be "closed" was murky. Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th), for instance, got word Thursday that one school in her ward is slated to close but none of the school buildings will be shuttered.

Foulkes said CPS officials told her Goodlow School, a struggling magnet school at 2040 W. 62nd St., is set to close and be merged with nearby Earle School at 6121 S. Hermitage Ave. The former Goodlow building will be used for a new elementary magnet school that focuses on science, technology, engineering and math — STEM for short.

And students at Ezzard Charles Montessori School, 7946 S. Ashland Ave., will move into Luke O’Toole School, 6550 S. Seeley Ave. Miles Davis Magnet Academy, which was on an early list of possible closures, will remain open, Foulkes said.

“None of the buildings are going to close and that is a victory for my kids,” Foulkes said. “My kids won’t be put in danger” by having to cross gang boundaries on the way to school.

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A spokesman for Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) laid out a complicated series of changes for schools in the ward:

Calhoun North, 2833 W. Adams St., will close and the students will go to Cather; Herbert, 2131 W. Monroe St. will close but Dett School will move into the Herbert building; King, 740 S. Campbell Ave., will close, and the students will move into Jensen; Dodge, 2651 W. Washington St., will close and the students will move into Morton; Montefiore will stay open, and be the receiving school for the students at Buckingham, 9207 S. Phillips Ave., and Near North; May, 512 S. Lavergne Ave., will close, but Brown and Smyth will not.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said CPS told him Yale, 7025 S. Princeton Ave. is closing, as is Banneker, 6656 S. Normal Blvd., both in Englewood. But he said Banneker students would remain in the building while teachers from another school would take over Banneker.

Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) said Wednesday night he had been told two elementary schools in his ward, Garrett A. Morgan 8407 S. Kerfoot Ave., and Mahalia Jackson, 917 W. 88th St., both in Auburn-Gresham, are on the final school closure list.

Kurt Jones, principal of Englewood's Libby Elementary School, said his school would not be closed, as did Principal John Nichols of Graham Elementary School in Canaryville. The principal at McClellan Elementary School in Bridgeport also said he'd received word his school had been spared.

All three schools were part of CPS' Pershing Network on the Southwest Side, where a total of seven buildings were eyed for closure. A school district source confirmed that only Parkman Elementary, 245 W. 51st St. in Fuller Park, will close. Parkman Principal Sonja James referred all questions to CPS spokespeople.

Pershing Network schools Hendricks, 4316 S. Princeton Ave. in Fuller Park, and Sherman, 1000 W. 52nd St. in Back of the Yards, also survived, the source said. Dewey Academy of Fine Arts, 5415 S. Union Ave. in Englewood will face a turnaround, the source said, meaning the students will come back next year to an all-new faculty.

McClellan Principal Joseph Shoffner rejoiced at his school's good fortune.

"Oh happy day," he said.

The school, 3527 S. Wallace St., is home to an autism cluster program, one the community vocally supported while the school was in the district's crosshairs. During recent CPS school closing forums, parents and teachers warned the school district of dire consequences of uprooting the special education population.

The school also contested its "utilization" status, saying CPS miscounted the number of classrooms as it calculated the number of classrooms.

Shoffner said he learned the news around 7 a.m. Thursday and shared it with teachers during the morning announcement.

"We had a big celebration," he said.

Valerie Nelson, chairwoman of the Local School Council at Lafayette got the news that the school would close Thursday morning and fears what will happen to kids at the Humboldt Park school, where 30 percent of students are in special education programs.

Students there are bused from all over for Lafayette's Special Education programs, even as far west as Harlem Avenue.

"They're telling us the regular kids, the gen ed kids, are going to Chopin. We've heard nothing about where our special ed kids are going," she said. "Everybody's all freaking out right now."

Trumbull Local School Council member Ali Burke, also a parent with children at the school, said the school will be closed “outright,” not consolidated, and that its special education students will be split between McPherson, McCutcheon and Chappelle elementary schools.

“I am shocked. I am completely disgusted. I can’t believe were still on the list,” Burke said, outraged. “We have 37 percent special education students at our school, and they’ve even added kids in the last week — they sent us three more special education students!”

Ald. Danny Solis (25th), meanwhile, tweeted Thursday morning that the schools in his ward that had been among the 129 up for closure would survive the cuts. They are Pilsen Community Academy, Joseph Jungman Elementary and John M. Smyth Elementary.

Schools Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett has until March 31 to forward her final list of school closures to members of the Chicago Board of Education, including those whose homes were targeted by protesters Thursday. A vote on the closings could come as soon as the April 3 board meeting.

Byrd-Bennett said in a statement late Wednesday she would "soon" make her recommendations so students can be moved into higher performing schools so they "will have all the things they need to learn and succeed.”

“I believe that every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high quality education that prepares them to succeed in life, but for too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed in the classroom because they are in underutilized, under resourced schools," she said.

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said in a statement that closing that many of the city's 472 elementary schools would send the public school system "into chaos."

"This city cannot destroy that many schools. It will send our district into chaos,” Lewis said in a statement issued Wednesday evening. “These actions will put our students' safety and academics at risk and will further destabilize our neighborhoods."

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