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Von Humboldt To Close, Along With Three Other Humboldt Park Schools

 Von Humboldt Elementary School is among four Humboldt Park schools set to close.
Von Humboldt
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CHICAGO — The Chicago Board of Education voted Wednesday to shutter all four Humboldt Park schools that remained on the closure list — leaving East Humboldt Park with no public schools, according to Ald. Joe Moreno (1st).

Von Humboldt Elementary, 2620 W. Hirsch St., proved to be the only split vote of the day, with four board members voting to close it and two voting to keep it open.

The other three Humboldt Park schools — Duprey, Ryerson and Lafayette — were all voted closed in one unanimous lump vote. Forty six other schools citywide will also close.

Jesse Ruiz and Carlos Azcoitia voted to keep Von Humboldt open, but the remaining board members supported its closure.

Principal Julious Lawson said Ruiz and Azcoitia visited the school in recent months while it was under threat for closure.

"It's bittersweet, I guess, in knowing that we were heard during those visits," he said. "Maybe what those two visiting board members saw, the rest would have seen if they came."

The visit came as a result of parents and teachers reaching out to Ruiz and Azcoitia to show them the programs and conditions that they felt made the school deserving of another chance.

Because of the visit and the feedback they'd received from those board members, Lawson and the teachers held out hope that their school would be spared.

"We were very hopeful," Lawson said. "We really are a school on the rise, so we were very hopeful."

Parents Eduardo Izquierdo and his girlfriend Nilda Perez said their families had lived in the neighborhood for 45 years, and all their children had gone to Von Humboldt including Perez's grown daughter.

Her granddaughters, ages 4 and 8, now go there, along with Izquierdo's 12-year-old daughter.

"This is very sad news for the whole neighborhood," Izquierdo said. "Why is the mayor closing all these schools in Hispanic and black neighborhoods?"

Izquierdo echoed many parents' concerns about kids crossing gang boundaries, and also questioned the mayor's recently announced $1.1 billion plan to refresh Navy Pier.

"Who cares about Navy Pier?" he said. "Education comes first."

His daughter, Rachel, now in the sixth grade, has attended the school since pre-school.

"I feel really sad that it's closing," she said. "It's going away and all my friends are here and all my memories."

She noted that there are 36 students in her class.

"See! That's overcrowded," Eduardo Izquierdo said.

Only four schools were spared from the chopping block citywide, and none of them were in Humboldt Park.

Throughout the process, parents and staff have been passionate in their fight for their schools. Lafayette parents picketed outside Ald. Roberto Maldonado's (26th) office when they felt he was not doing enough to support them, and Ryerson parents staged a walkout there.

Ald. Moreno was one of only nine aldermen who attended Wednesday's board meeting, and urged them to keep the Humboldt Park schools open.

"East Humboldt Park deserves public schools, all of our neighborhoods do," he said, urging members of the board to "vote your heart."

At just 100 students, Duprey Elementary — housed inside the Von Humboldt building — was considered the most underutilized according to CPS standards.

But Duprey parents said that is precisely what made it a great school.

"I feel great about that," Duprey parent Angel Flores said in December when the school was found to be underutilized. "There's more time for each student. If you stick 30 or 40 students into a classroom, they're not going to get half the attention they need."