BRONZEVILLE — The Bronzeville Community Action Council invited a Chicago Public Schools behavioral specialist to its Monday meeting as it prepares for the closing of four schools in the neighborhood.
“Last year, there were only 15 schools [that closed citywide], and we had way more time, and we were in the schools in March rather than having to wait until March to even find out which schools were closing,” said Edwin Johnson, who is helping coordinate support services for students in schools that are slated to close.
Johnson said most schools CPS intends to close will have counselors visiting classrooms once a week until the school year ends.
At a meeting at the Chicago Urban League, 4510 S. Michigan Ave., he said students are being taught relaxation techniques and how to identify their own feelings and those of others, and how to say goodbye, but the real work will begin next year as students enter their new schools.
“Eight weeks is not a lot of time to learn anything, so we’re just exposing them to it,” Johnson said.
He said counselors will be prepared to work with groups of students who show signs of having difficulty managing anger and work with kids individually who are dealing with trauma.
“This is where the kid’s exposure to trauma is continually messing them up,” Johnson said.
He said it was difficult working with the short window of time remaining in the school year after all the hearings on the school closures.
“I appreciate [CPS CEO] Barbara Byrd-Bennett wanting to give people time [to try to prevent the closings], but it gives us less time in the building,” Johnson said. “We’re finding we’re rushed to get materials to the students.”
Ald. Pat Dowell (3rd) said her office was working with CPS to make sure all the resources that were promised were made available. She said she was reviewing Safe Passage routes, where community members were posted in the neighborhood to monitor kids on their way home from school.
Members of the council said they were reaching out to Jehovah’s Witnesses, other churches, “street people” and anyone else in the community to keep an eye on kids as they travel home from their new schools.
Williams and Drake elementary school kids already are preparing for their consolidation next year. The students have read the same books and then watched the film adaptations together, and others are writing letters to their future classmates.
“Children are resilient,” said Michael Wilson, who teaches early childhood education at Drake Elementary School, 2722 S. Martin Luther King Drive. “If that building burned to the ground, those kids would be OK.”