EAST GARFIELD PARK — Bethune Elementary will close this fall, Chicago Public Schools officials said in a letter given to parents outside the school Thursday.
The letter says the students will attend John Milton Gregory Elementary at 3715 W. Polk St. next fall.
"After a thoughtful rigorous process in which we looked at every individual school and incorporated the feedback we received from more than 20,000 of you ... I am making the recommendation to close Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School," CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett wrote.
A teacher, who did not wish to be named, said she was told by Principal Ernest Williams Thursday morning that the school was in danger of closing.
“This one better not close or I’ll start protesting,” said Patricia Mitts, who lives across the street from the school at 3030 W. Arthington St.
Mitts is the sole caretaker for her 13-year-old nephew who attends Bethune.
The seventh grader, whose parents are both dead, has attended Bethune since the fourth grade and Mitts said she worries about the boy’s mental state if he has to change schools.
“If they close the school, it’s gonna be really hard for him. ‘Cause he doesn’t make friends very easily. He’s a loner, you know, and he has issues with depression,” Mitts said.
Mitts, who said she received no warning of the closure, said the school is not underutilized so she can’t see why it needs to close.
“Most of the schools on the West Side here that’s close to us, our kids are gonna have to go a distance to get to another school,” she said. “What are they gonna be, bused? We going back to Mississippi here?”
Early on Thursday, Principal Williams said he could not comment on whether Bethune was closing.
“We are hurtin.’ Taking our kids from one school to another school, we got to walk through gangs, drug dealers. You know, it’s not safe,” said Brenda O’Neal, a parent volunteer at Bethune.
O’Neal, 45, who has three children at the school, said school administrators had told her that her kids might have to change over to Gregory Elementary if Bethune ended up closing.
“But I prefer for them to stay right here where they know people and know they surroundings,” O’Neal said.