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CPS School Closings: Ald. Maldonado Target of Angry Lafayette Parents

By Victoria Johnson | March 21, 2013 4:38pm | Updated on March 21, 2013 7:48pm

HUMBOLDT PARK — Dozens of parents, students and supporters of Lafayette Elementary School gathered in front of Ald. Roberto Maldonado's (26th) office Thursday to protest the school's closure.

They were upset because they felt the alderman did nothing to help defend the school, even after repeated requests to meet with him.

"This is crazy," said parent Evelyn Bonet. "You know, my kids have been [at Lafayette] all their lives."

Like most of the other protesters, Bonet was angry with the alderman for not coming out to talk to the crowd.

"When he wants our vote, we're there for him. But when we need him, he's not there," she said.

Maldonado did not return calls for comment.

Lafayette students will be transferred to Chopin Elementary School, according to CPS documents released Thursday, but parents are concerned that another school will be able to handle their additional needs.

More than 30 percent of students at the Humboldt Park school are enrolled in special education programs and students are bused from all over the city to go there.

Valerie Nelson, chairwoman of the Local School Council at Lafayette, located at 2714 W. Augusta Blvd., got news the school would close Thursday morning.

"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."

CPS officials promised earlier this week that displaced special education students will go schools capable of handling the needs of the children.

Nelson's own children have differing special needs, and with Lafayette closing they could be separated, she said.

Her 6-year-old daughter is autistic and her 12-year-old is in the general population, but also needs special allowances for testing.

At Lafayette, general population students and special education students are integrated, something that does not happen at most schools.

"Our kids play together, they have gym together, they have art together, music," she said. "One of our teachers, one of our beloved teachers, the music teacher, punched the table when he heard."

Lafayette is one of four Humboldt Park schools that will be closed, but CPS has emphasized that the "welcoming schools," as it has dubbed the receiving schools, will have better programs and amenities, such as air conditioning.

Ryerson Elementary School, at 646 N. Lawndale Ave., will also close, and students from Laura S. Ward Elementary School in Garfield Park will move into the Ryerson building, keeping the Ward name.

The new Ward Elementary would offer STEM, a program designed to bolster education in science and technology, according to CPS.

Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (26th) is pleased about that, he said, but not about the dangers some kids may face in traveling farther to school.

"My main concern is the safety, we want more resources and programs, but we want our kids being safe in getting there," he said. "We don't want kids not going to school because they're afraid."

Von Humboldt and Duprey Elementary schools, housed in the same building at 2620 W. Hirsch St., will move into DeDiego Elementary School at 1313 N. Claremont Ave.

Piccolo Elementary School in Humboldt Park and Brentano Math and Science Academy in Logan Square will both remain open. Both had been on the previous list of 129 schools threatened with closure.