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Peabody Parents Angry, Scared About School Closing

By Alisa Hauser | May 23, 2013 12:52pm | Updated on May 23, 2013 1:31pm
 The mood was somber as parents congregated after dropping their children off at West Town's Peabody School, one of 50 schools scheduled to close following a six-member Board of Education vote Wednesday. 
Peabody School in West Town to Close
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WEST TOWN — The mood was somber and the skies gray as mothers dropped their children off at a West Town school Thursday, one of 50 that the Chicago Board of Education voted to close just the day before.

Sara Gutierrez and her sons, Ricardo, a fourth grader, and Fernando, a second grader, live almost directly across the street from Peabody School at 1444 W. Augusta Blvd. in West Town.

In wake of the closure, Gutierrez said she was trying to find new schools for her sons and did not want to send them to Otis Elementary at 525 N. Armour St. — the school designated as the "welcoming" institution for Peabody students for the 2013-2014 school year. 

Otis is about three-quarters of a mile away from Peabody and CPS has previously stated it will not offer shuttle bus transportation because the distance is under eight-tenths of a mile.

Gutierrez said that while Ricardo has already been accepted to Columbus Elementary in Ukrainian Village for the coming year, there is a waiting list of 11 students ahead of Fernando and she doesn't know how she could get her sons to two different schools without transportation.

"It's very bad, very sad," Gutierrez said, shaking her head.

After dropping their children off, 25 parents, many of them young mothers, congregated in a meeting room to digest the news that their children's' school would be shuttering.

Speaking through a translator, the parents expressed concerns over transportation and safety, as well as anger toward the system.

"I'm sad, disappointed. The CPS priority should be kids first, but it's all about numbers and money and not putting children first," said Maria Prado.

Prado described Peabody as "a place where teachers care, a great tight-knit staff with the principal, Federico Flores, supporting the students."

Prado, who has a son in first grade and a daughter in fourth grade, said, "If CPS cares so much about numbers, they should have had all the students move to the big building."

LSC chair Susana Delgado, who joined the mothers, told DNAinfo.com Chicago that the utilization study did not take into account the fact that the school has two buildings. A building adjacent to the larger school has about eight rooms including the principal's office and serves pre-K through second grade.

"We offered to move everyone into one campus but CPS did not allow that," Delgado said.

Margarita Rodriguez, said that she "hopes CPS has the dignity to provide transportation."

Rodriguez explained: "A lot of mothers are left without a car when our husbands go to work. CPS has not taken into consideration the way the economy is and how we will not have money to take the CTA."

There are 266 students at Peabody School, which has a student population that's mostly Hispanic, with 97 percent of students low-income and 43 percent described as "limited English learners," according to CPS.

By a show of hands, most of the parents came by foot, not car, to drop their children off and about half said they live less than three blocks from the school.

Raquel Miranda, who lives around the corner from Peabody, said that if it's snowing too hard and the weather's bad she will not take her kids to a new school.

"If CPS really wants to save money, I can keep my kids at home when it's snowing and dangerous," said Miranda.

Jorge and Maria Perez said they were not happy because Peabody was "very close" to their family's home and his son, a second grader, was upset because he loved his second grade teacher.

Some of the parents in the room such as Alejandra Resendiz said that they were hoping to enroll their children at other schools that they believed were safer than Otis Elementary, such as Talcott Elementary at 1840 W. Ohio St.

Resendiz, who has two children at Peabody as well as two nephews, said she had already applied all four to Talcott school but there was a waiting list.

"What CPS says is not true, their system is false, it's only lies," said Resendiz.

Lincoln Park resident Precious Murphy has four children enrolled at Peabody School, including a son in a special education program who has been to three schools in the past two years.

The only African American in the room of Latino parents, Murphy said she and her children were "welcomed by everyone" at Peabody.

"He went to Manierre and well, they just saved that school but I am not bringing him back there," Murphy said.

Murphy said Peabody is "family oriented" and helped her son out a lot with his treatment plan.

Delgado, whose son, Emilio is in second grade at Peabody School, said that she's reached out to Hispanic families to help spur enrollment in the area but in recent years, the student population has declined due to more families moving out of the neighborhood.

Delgado said some parents feel like "it's still not too late to rally and protest and fight back," while other are saying "it's final, set in stone."