FULLER PARK — As Parkman Elementary School students were bused to Legoland for a field trip Thursday morning, word began filtering to parents gathered at the South Side school that the school board is expected to close the building.
“The parents and students are in disarray. They’re going to get lost in the shuffle,” said Kelly Griggs, 25, vice chairman of Parkman’s local school council.
The school at 245 W. 51st St. is the only building in the Southwest Side Pershing Network that will be closed. CPS had previously eyed seven network schools for closure.
Five of the network schools were spared. They are McClellan Elementary in Bridgeport, Graham Elementary in Canaryville, Libby Elementary and Sherman Elementary in Englewood and Hendricks Elementary in Fuller Park.
In a statement on the school's website, Libby principal Kurt Jones said the school underwent a “grueling process defending and highlighting" the school's achievements to CPS.
“It is my personal commitment to heal the wounds, uplift the morale and lift ourselves to greater heights," he said.
McClellan principal Joseph Shoffner said the faculty and students celebrated after getting word that the school was off the school district's list.
"Oh, happy day," Shoffner said.
Dewey Elementary Academy of the Fine Arts, 5415 S. Union Englewood, faces a turnaround, meaning the students get to come back but the district will replace all existing faculty.
One Dewey teacher who didn't want to named said in an email the news was "hard for the little ones to wrap their head around."
"They're firing all the staff, even non-teachers like janitors, cafeteria staff. I think it's a real loss for the kids, all of these stable adults they've known for years will no longer be here for them," the teacher said.
As school let out at Parkman on Thursday, parents and employees were bewildered about what to do next.
Kevin Grant, 67, said he's worked in the school’s lunch room for 15 years. He’s hoping he’s gathered enough seniority to get transferred to another school.
“It’s not a lot of years but it’s right there in the middle,” he said.
Griggs and others said school officials told them Parkman students would be bused next year to Jesse Sherwood Elementary, 245 W. 57th St., located about six blocks south in the Englewood neighborhood.
That didn’t sit well with Andrea Gladney, whose 6-year-old son attends kindergarten at Parkman.
The Back of the Yards resident said she chose Parkman because the school was safer than the other neighborhood options.
Now, she’s faced with another choice.
“He has a group of friends here, which I’m sure he won’t be following down to that deadly neighborhood down there,” she said, gesturing south toward Englewood.
According to CPS data, Parkman was considered underutilized, with an enrollment of 231 students but room for 570. The school has been on academic probation since the 2008-09 school year.
Principal Sonja James declined comment and referred questions to the school district’s communications office. Alice Buzanis, principal at Sherwood, could not immediately be reached for comment.
Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said this week "welcoming" schools like Sherwood would have air conditioning, a library and cash in a “Welcoming School Support Fund."
Before leaving the school, Gladney put her son in the car and closed the door. She said she hadn’t told him yet that he’d be separated from his buddies next year.
The news of the closing hadn't really sunk in yet, she said.
"That's probably it" for the school, she said. "But we want to keep up hope."