WEST CHATHAM — Parents were excited as they arrived at Mahalia Jackson Elementary Wednesday and learned that the school would not be closing this year after all.
“Hallelujah. God has answered my prayers,” said Jackie Parks, 38. “I did not want my son to be transferred to another school. The pre-kindergarten teachers are excellent and he is comfortable learning here and so am I."
A CPS spokeswoman Wednesday morning confirmed Jackson, Marcus Garvey, Leif Ericson and George Manierre Elementary schools would be spared from the chopping block. At Wednesday’s Chicago Board of Education meeting, CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett is expected to withdraw the schools from a list of 54 she recommended for closure in March.
Closing Jackson would have meant students would have been sent to either Fort Dearborn or Paul Cuffe Elementary schools.
An independent hearing officer had recently concluded in a report to CPS that Jackson, 917 W. 88th St., should remain open. David Coar pointed out that Jackson has many special needs children.
“The safety of the most vulnerable children in the school system is a very serious thing, not to be addressed with generalities and vague promises,” Coar wrote. “Children in special education programs have not been told where they will go if the proposal [to close the school] is approved.”
Parent Jeremy Pryor, 32, said he would like to see his first-grader graduate from Jackson.
"I like the teachers. They are working hard to improve test scores and I see improvement in my son's learning ability," Pryor said. "I thought it was crazy to begin with that [CPS] wanted to close the school."
And Robert Wright, 60, whose 5-year-old niece attends Jackson, said he hopes the school remains open past next year.
"While I am glad to hear the school will not close this year I would hope this is not a temporary thing," Wright said. "And what I mean is I hope CPS is not brushing parents off for the time being and then later [will] lower the 'boom' and close the school down the road."
Odis Allen Jr., a sixth-grader at Jackson, has other reasons why he wanted to remain there.
"This is where all my friends go. I have a lot of nice memories and I don't want that taken away from me."