The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

CPS School Closings: West Town Loses Peabody, Near North Special Ed School

By Alisa Hauser | March 21, 2013 7:18pm

WEST TOWN — News of school closures and consolidations hit two West Town schools Thursday.

At the close of the school day, parents huddled outside Peabody School at 1444 W. Augusta Blvd., clutching letters given to them by their children from Chicago Public Schools announcing the school's closure.

Fighting off her own tears and wiping away those on the face of her third-grade son, Xavier, Maria Rubio said she graduated from the neighborhood school in 1996 and that all three of her children either attend or have graduated from Peabody.

Rubio said she entered the school before closing to help put flowers in all of the teacher's mailboxes.

"This hurts. We love this school. We are worried about the distance [to new school]," Rubio said.

Peabody students will be merging with Otis School at 525 N. Armour St. on Grand Avenue, between Ashland Avenue and Noble Street.

A source who asked not to be named said Otis, which has over 500 students and could have to absorb anywhere between 200 to 260 students from Peabody School, might become overcrowded.

Students were informed of Peabody's closure at a 3 p.m. assembly, according to one parent whose daughter wrote an impassioned letter to Peabody's principal, Federico Flores, pleading with him to "ask for more money" to keep the school open.

The plea may go on deaf ears.

In a media briefing, CPS has recommended closure for Peabody School because enrollment has declined by 39 percent over the last 10 years  (438 to 266), the building is less than half full and requires almost $11.5 million to maintain and update. Additionally, the building lacks ADA accessibility.

Otis Elementary, where CPS is recommending Peabody's students transfer to, has "air conditioning in every classroom" as well as ADA accessibility and is a Level 2 World Language Academy, according to the briefing.

All features aside, to many of the parents polled by DNAinfo.com Chicago, the distance of nine blocks from 1444 W. Augusta Blvd. to 525 N. Armour St. is too far.

Laura Martinez, 36, has two children in grades fourth and sixth at Peabody.

Martinez lives around the corner from the school, has no car and walks her children to school.

Martinez was holding her son, Cesar, a sixth grade student, in her arms as the boy, who's attended Peabody since Kindergarten, began to cry upon seeing his mother at the close of the school day.

Raquel Garcia was waiting to pick up her kindergarten son as she spoke in Spanish through a translator.

"It is really bad for everyone. First, I am worried first about all the jobs, where will the teachers go?  Second, I am worried about the kids because this neighborhood is good for them. This is where we live. We walk to school," Garcia said.

At Near North School at 739 N. Ada St., which serves 100 special needs students from all over the city, buses were picking up students around 2:45 p.m.

Earlier in the day, school clerk Maria Cifuentes said 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 the parking lot, a Near North teacher who asked not to be named, said that "short and simple, my biggest concerns is for the kids. It is a big transition."

As for herself, the teacher said she has not been told whether or not she will be moving to Montefiore and keeping her job, too.

A source said all of the teachers at closed schools can reapply for employment at the new schools CPS is recommending.

"The teachers are crying, too. They've got kids, families, bills to pay. It's tough," he said.