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CPS School Closings: Wells, Mayo to Merge in Douglas

By Erica Demarest | March 22, 2013 11:20am

DOUGLAS — “Bittersweet” and “crap” were among the range of reactions parents voiced Friday as they learned that Mayo Elementary School and Wells Preparatory Elementary Academy will merge next year.

Chicago Public Schools announced the merger Thursday when it revealed 54 city schools would be shuttered. Students and teachers from Wells, 244 E. Pershing Rd., will move down the street to Mayo, 249 E. 37th St., which, in turn, will adopt the Wells moniker.

Mayo students are welcome to stay put, but they’ll be considered Wells students moving forward as Mayo essentially closes and its teachers forced to reapply for jobs at Wells.

“I mean, it’s better for them to merge than to close the schools down,” said Alonzo White, 43, a Mayo parent with a son in kindergarten and daughter in Head Start. “Moving outside the neighborhood would be harder on parents.”

Wells parents reacted fairly favorably to the merger, which will allow them to keep their school’s name, teachers, principal and uniforms.

“It's bittersweet,” said one mother, who didn’t wish to be named. “I’m on the winning side, so to speak. I’m pretty happy that I don’t have to move my children like 5,000 miles away. … I can still get to work on time. I can still get my workout in.”

Wells mother Ernestine White, 42, said she’s excited about the prospect of having more space in Mayo’s facilities.

“I don’t have a problem too much with [the merger] because we’re only moving across the way,” she said, pointing to Mayo, which is visible from Wells. “We only have one level, one hallway, here. We share the building with the high school.”

Ernestine White did voice concerns about crowding, however.

“It’s going to make us larger — 600 students versus 200,” she said.

Parents at Mayo weren’t as appreciative of the merger.

“I don’t understand why they’re closing this school,” said Robin Thornton, 26, who attended Mayo and has a daughter in pre-school there. “It’s like a landmark. I figured Mayo would be open longer than Wells Prep.”

Teachers at Mayo told parents they’d be losing their jobs, Thornton said. She said the teachers were one of the school’s biggest draws.

“My daughter comes home every day with a smile on her face,” Thornton said. “It’s going to be tough, period, because these are teachers that I trust with my daughter.”

Alonzo White said it was “a shame” teachers would be let go.

“Right now they don’t have enough staff to take care of the kids they have,” he said. “They’re trying to close down, and they should be building up.”

Mayo mom Teaqua McGraw-Young, 25, a recent widow with a son in Kindergarten, was visibly upset.

“I hate that they’re closing the school. It’s crap,” she said. “I just moved here from Waukegan. Do I have to move up north to find my son a school?”

McGraw-Young is studying to become a medical technician. Between her own tuition costs and daycare for her younger daughter, McGraw-Young can’t afford private school.

She believes Mayo is too small of a facility to host the merger and “will need to expand.

“At the end of the day, you just want your child to get an education and have the same opportunities you did,” McGraw-Young said.