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CTA Fares, Sex Offenders Top Parent Concerns at Peabody School in West Town

By Alisa Hauser | March 28, 2013 11:06am

WEST TOWN — More than 40 parents, students and teachers from West Town's Peabody School on Wednesday joined marchers rallying against the proposed closings of 54 CPS schools.

It was their second time rallying in the past week; after news of the impending closure hit classrooms on Thursday, the group appeared on Spanish-language television.

"We're all in this together and hoping for a reprieve but will see how it plays out," said Principal Federico Flores.

Parents and teachers waiting for a bus to transport them downtown expressed concern over the ramifications of the proposed closure of the neighborhood school at 1444 W. Augusta Blvd.

While CPS maintains that the school is less than half utilized and would require $11.5 million in repairs to maintain and update, some people like Rosalva Nava believe it's about real estate in West Town's fast-gentrifying East Village neighborhood.

"They want this building. It's valuable property," Nava said.

Nava said she has conducted research on sex offenders and where they live and claimed students who chose to take side routes to the proposed "welcoming school" — Otis, at 525 N. Armour St. — would pass Chestnut Street, where there's "a home for sex offenders and drug addicts."

"In past years, we had a man flashing students. We took a stand with parents and police," Nava said.

Nava works part-time at the school conducting a leadership class for parents and said that Peabody has "a strong component of parents who are engaged and involved in the school."

Pam Osorio, a 12-year instructor at Peabody who works on intervention programs, said a longer walk to and from school creates a time crunch for parents in light of CTA fare increases on multi-day passes.

Google maps and Yahoo Mapquest shows the distance between Peabody and Otis Elementary as eight-tenths of a mile. A spokesman for CPS who said he was using Google maps said it is six-tenths of a mile.

A CPS "Fact Sheet" issued March 27 stated that "For neighborhood students that will not receive transportation, the average increase in distance from their home to their school building will be less than two blocks."

A CPS spokesman said, "If the distance between sending school and welcoming school is more than eight-tenths of a mile there will be a shuttle bus provided."

"In the case of Peabody and Otis, they are six-tenths of a mile apart, so there will be no service except for students who already have bus service like Special Ed or students in a temporary living situation," the spokesman said.

When asked about any plans for CPS to assist parents with CTA fares, the spokesman said, "There was some kinds of fare reimbursement program talked about earlier" but he was not sure of its status.

At the march, school clinician Marilena Marchetti, who works at various CPS Schools, joined up with the Peabody protestors. 

Marchetti was working in a seventh-grade classroom at Peabody last Thursday when students were informed of the closure.

Marchetti said some students responded with tears and questions, like, "Why does a school need to go away?" while another turned angry and said, "This would never happen at an all-white school."

Peabody's student population is three-quarters Hispanic, with 97 percent of students low-income and 43 percent described as "limited English learners" according to a CPS listing for the school.

In addition to upcoming public meetings and a hearing, Peabody School will be participating in Neighborhood Outreach April 4.

Interested parties can stop by Peabody, 1444 W. Augusta Blvd. from 3-5 p.m. on April 4 to pick up "flyers, petitions and other supplies," according to a flyer.