CITY HALL — A community group declared a banner day for protest on proposed school closings.
Saying it was out to "get maximum visibility at rush hour for a very clear message," Parents 4 Teachers held demonstrations at City Hall and above the Kennedy Expressway late Friday afternoon.
The message depicted on banners was "no schools closings — zero!" But protesters also suggested Mayor Rahm Emanuel was risking being a one-term mayor by backing the Chicago Public Schools' mass closures.
"We all have a stake in this," said Erica Clark, one of the founders of Parents 4 Teachers, outside City Hall Friday. She said the demonstration was to support all the teachers, students and parents at schools designated to be closed. "We want them to know there are parents across the city who care about this."
Clark said the goal was still to prevent those closings. "We wouldn't be standing here out in the cold if we didn't think it was possible," Clark added. "It's going to take a tremendous amount of pressure. We're going to make life very uncomfortable for the powers that be until this decision is made."
CPS has scheduled a series of public hearings for the schools set for closure ahead of a final vote set for May.
About a dozen demonstrators protested outside City Hall, and Clark said several more displayed banners above the Kennedy Expressway at Washington Boulevard and at Madison Street. They were also passing out flyers publicizing another school-closings rally being organized at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Daley Plaza.
"I believe that we need to acknowledge the new reality of fewer children in the school system and subsequent under enrollment of our schools, but we have to process these realities as they relate to educating our children," Thomas said.
"Providing the best possible education for students and making sure they can get to and from their schools safely — that is the highest priority."
Thomas said the key question is "how are these children and families better prepared to bring positive change to their lives as a result of CPS' decisions on school closures?"
The City Council's Progressive Reform Coalition countered with a statement asking: "How much will it cost to move all these students and to ensure their safety and security? How will the new expenses be paid for? Until this and many other questions are explored, examined and presented for public review, we stand with our teachers, parents and other community stakeholders in calling for an immediate moratorium on school closings."
Thomas, however, has not scheduled any formal hearings on the matter.
Thomas' 17th Ward has one school designated for closure: Altgeld Elementary, 1340 W. 71st St.