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King Elementary Closing Means Rahm Has 'Blood on His Hands,' Parent Says

By Chloe Riley | May 22, 2013 3:51pm | Updated on May 22, 2013 5:24pm
 Maria Cortes, who has taught at King Elementary for 22 years, stands outside of the school, which is slated to close in the fall.
Maria Cortes, who has taught at King Elementary for 22 years, stands outside of the school, which is slated to close in the fall.
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DNAinfo/Chloe Riley

TRI-TAYLOR — Parents and teachers reacted with a mixture of sadness and disbelief at William H. King Elementary's closing, announced Wednesday by the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education.

"It's not over. There's gonna be chaos. And Rahm Emanuel better know he got blood on his hands," said Nikkia Pierce, a parent with two small children at King at 740 S. Campbell Ave.

Pierce said there's "no way" she's sending her boys, ages 3 and 6, to Jensen Elementary, the receiving school at 3030 W. Harrison St. nearly a mile away from King.

"It's not a good school to send your child to, period," she said.

Almost 87 percent of students at the Level 3 school are low-income, and a majority are African American.

King Elementary's Second CPS Closing Meeting
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DNAinfo/Chloe Riley

Maria Cortes, who has been teaching at King for 22 years, said CPS' claims of the school being underutilized are inaccurate, due to the school's lack of resources.

"CPS will not admit when they're wrong. They will never admit when they're wrong," she said.

But Bernetta Bush, a judge who served as King's independent hearing officer, agreed with CPS that King was underutilized.

But earlier this month, she had recommended the school be taken off the closure list due to safety concerns for students who would have to walk almost a half mile more to Jensen Elementary.

“While these measures may work ideally for some communities, they are generic in form and fail to provide site specific analysis that addresses the academic and high risk safety concerns raised by the King community,” Bush wrote on May 5.

On April 9, King parents and faculty marched alongside local aldermen and community members to demonstrate the dangers children would face walking from King to Jensen.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who took part in the walk, said he was extremely disappointed by the announcement and said he'll do whatever it takes to keep the school open.

"Why do we have a board that’s so unresponsive? I don’t know what you can say. This whole thing was a charade and people should be outraged," Fioretti said Wednesday. 

But making sure King’s students are safe has been a definite priority, according to CPS General Counsel James Bebley, who disagreed with Bush’s conclusion.

Bebley noted that CPS had reviewed and updated school safety audits for the two schools in addition to providing Safe Passage program supports and a transition security officer to assist with any safety concerns. 

Nikkia Pierce said she hasn't thought about where her two boys will go, as she still maintains that King will remain open.

"This school is not closing," Pierce said.