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Manierre Parents Say New CPS 'Transition' Plan Not Enough

By  Mark Konkol and Paul Biasco | May 21, 2013 7:01am | Updated on May 21, 2013 8:56am

 Tucked away in a tiny corner of Old Town is an open vice market known as Sedville, controlled by the Mickey Cobras and Conservative Vice Lords street gangs. Parents and neighbors fear that CPS plans to close Manierre School in Sedville and send students to Jenner Academy in Gangster Disciples territory, known as "The Wild Side," will lead to increased violence in the gentrifying neighborhood.
Walk to the Wild Side
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CHICAGO —  Sherise McDaniel wept on the sidewalk below Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall office.

After three months of protesting, after testifying at three hearings, and Monday after one final march to save her kids’ school, McDaniel got word that Manierre Elementary would remain on the list of schools set to close next year.

She thought about her son — a second-grader who stopped talking after his father died — and couldn’t hold back the tears.

“We had to go through a lot. We had to fight. It took three years for my son to start talking again. And if they trying to force him outside of his environment there’s a chance he might regress,” McDaniel said, turning her focus to Emanuel. “I don’t feel like he should be able to treat us this way. He doesn’t respect anyone. If I say what I want, I’ll go to jail. I don’t think he should be able to treat me that way. This is very personal.”

On Friday, sources told DNAinfo.com Chicago that CPS bosses were considering removing some schools from the closure list.

McDaniel had held out hope that Manierre would be one of those schools, since an independent hearing officer recommended the Old Town school remain open.

Instead, CPS released new plans for safe passage, in-school security, social services and counseling that will be offered to Manierre Students if the Board of Education votes Wednesday to send kids into rival gang territory, where Jenner Academy is located, in the fall.

“That is a load of crap,” McDaniel said. “How about Barbara Byrd-Bennett and Mayor Emanuel get their kids and bring them to Jenner. Tell them to cross Division. Tell them when the gunshots ring out to call safe passage. Tell them.”

The new CPS plans were released as hundreds of parents, students and staff from the 54 schools up for a closing vote converged Downtown on the third day of mass marches, and while parents such as Sherise McDaniel, Shereena Allison and Karlyn Harris marched on false hope from that independent hearing report.

For months, CPS has refused to release detailed plans of how a safe transition for Manierre kids into Jenner would take place.

The new, more detailed transition plan — released less than 48 hours before the School Board votes on the closures — includes moving two full-time security guards from Manierre into Jenner, adding digital recording and monitoring to Jenner's camera system and adding a metal detector and hand wands to the school.

The reason for the CPS last-minute update to the transition plan was that nine of the reports filed by independent hearing officers found that CPS was not in compliance with state law.

The judge in Manierre's case ruled that CPS didn't fully consider the safety of students and called the original transition plan for Manierre a generic template.

"Regardless of the obvious differences in the individual schools, each and every parent in every affected school was promised the same thing. Only a computerized change of the school names differentiates the letters," Paddy McNamara wrote.

In a statement released during Monday's march, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she and her staff took the issues raised by the hearing officers seriously and "were determined to address them in advance of the vote by the Board of Education with the level of specificity hearing officers felt was needed."

The updated transition plan also lists the route that students will take across Division Street if the School Board closes Manierre.

The proposed routes include crossing Division at either Clybourn Avenue or at Sedgwick Street, and plans for students to be guided down Cleveland Avenue to the school.

Still, that was not enough for parents at Manierre.

"If those kids wanna fight," Allison said, "that's what they're going to do."