ENGLEWOOD — Betty Washington, a special education teacher at Elihu Yale Elementary School, will never forget the hugs she received from students on Wednesday — the day her school closed.
"My students made working here special, and I will miss them more than anything," Washington said as she fought back tears. "Tomorrow starts a new chapter for me. That's when I will start looking for another teaching job."
"I have taught here since 2005, and quite frankly, I don't know what I will do if I don't find another teaching job," Washington said. "Once you've been a teacher for so long it's hard imagining yourself doing anything else."
One of her students, 8-year-old William Heath, was unaware that he would not see her again, said Lisa Heath, his mom.
"He has autism, and he loves Ms. Washington. I am concerned how he will act at a new school once he realizes that Ms. Washington is no longer his teacher," the boy's mother said. "This is not something easy for kids with special needs to digest. I wish CPS had thought about that before deciding to close Yale."
William, a second-grader, will attend John Harvard Elementary School of Excellence, 7525 S. Harvard St., this fall along with other Yale students.
Brianna Morrison, 12, said she is hoping the students at Harvard are as nice as the ones at Yale. She has attended Yale since kindergarten.
"I don't know much about Harvard, so I am a little nervous starting over somewhere new," said the seventh-grader, who was awarded a good citizenship award Wednesday. "I will miss my best friend, my teachers and our computer class, which I really liked a lot."
Rashod Robinson, 6, said the one thing he will miss the most at Yale is gym classes.
"We got to play outside and play inside, and I like all the games we played in gym," said the kindergarten student.
Other Yale students, who said they were happy to get a break from school, are looking forward to going to Harvard.
"Most of the kids on my block go to Harvard, so I'm straight," said James Woods, 12. "Now I don't have to feel like an outsider when [my friends and I] all get together talking about school."
Earlier this year Yvette Moyo, executive director of Real Men Charities, unsuccessfully tried to recruit Yale alumnus and Englewood native Jennifer Hudson to join her in campaigning to keep the school open.
Instead,"Jennifer and her sister Julia have been working hard to grow their own foundation, which serves the children of Chicago, and their philanthropic efforts are focused on that at this time," said Marla Farwell, vice president of WKT Public Relations, which represents Hudson.
In end though, Victoria Robinson, 30, said it's all in God's hands.
"I prayed on this transition for my kids, and God has told me every thing will be OK," said Robinson, who has two kids at Yale. "And I know God does not make mistakes."