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Yale Closure Prompts Safety Concerns by Parents

By Wendell Hutson | May 22, 2013 6:49pm
 Parents say they are worried about their children's safety now that Yale Elementary School is set to close in June.
Safety Concerns at Yale Elementary
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ENGLEWOOD — Even though Chicago Public Schools has a safety plan in place for students affected by school closures, Elihu Yale Elementary parents said it's not enough.

"My babies will be at home with me and I will be their teacher before I send them to Harvard," said Beatrice Fears, 33, who has five kids that attend Yale. "We don't need our kids getting beat up and having their cell phones stolen because CPS closed their school and sent them in harm's way."

The nation's third largest school district with 403,000 students and 681 schools voted Wednesday to close 50 elementary schools it deemed underutilized. Besides Yale, other Englewood schools the board voted to close in June were Arna Wendell Bontemps, Enrico Fermi, Granville Math & Science Academy, Elaine Goodlow and Benjamin Banneker.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief executive officer of CPS, praised the board for what she said was a difficult decision.

“I look forward to working together with parents and our school communities to create a fresh, positive start for all students at their new school this fall,” she said in a statement.

Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said he was not surprised by the board's vote.

"Once CPS recommended Yale to close I knew it was a done deal. My concern now is to make sure the Yale building is used for something that would benefit the community," Sawyer said.

Robyn Ziegler, a spokeswoman for CPS, said unused school buildings would ultimately be put up for sale.

Englewood schools had been on the wrong path far too long and changes were needed to get Yale and other schools back on track, contended John Paul Jones, executive director of Sustainable Englewood Initiatives, a Chicago nonprofit.

"More science and math academies are needed in Englewood. These are the two areas black kids are lacking in the most when you compare them to their white counterparts," said Jones. "A clear direction is needed here to get schools in Englewood to improve and I just don't see that happening."

John Harvard Elementary, 7525 S. Harvard St., is the receiving school CPS has designated for Yale students to attend this fall.

But Sonya Davis, 33, who has lived in Englewood for 22 years, said her two sons won't be going there.

"My kids will not be going to Harvard. The walk there is not safe. They would have to walk past abandoned buildings, liquor stores and gangs hanging out on the corner," added Davis, an alumnus of Yale. "My 16-year-old son graduated from Yale and I would like my two baby boys [in grades sixth and fifth] to finish at Yale, but now that the school is closing, I will search for a new school."

Earlier this month, Yvette Moyo, founder and executive director of Real Men Charities, had unsuccessfully tried to recruit Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson, a Yale alumnus and Englewood native, to join her crusade to keep the school open.

Rather than work with local organizations, Hudson, 32, plans to continue helping Englewood kids through her foundation, according to Marla Farwell, a spokeswoman for the actress.