UPTOWN — Jocelyn Martinez, an eighth-grader at Graeme Stewart Elementary School, walked into class Monday morning with tissues stashed in her purse.
She followed advice from her younger sister, a fifth-grader at the closing school who, Martinez said, told her: "Bring tissues — because everybody will be crying."
"I feel bad because I've been at this school since preschool," said Martinez, whose sister won't get the chance to graduate from the Uptown neighborhood school at 4525 N. Kenmore Ave. like she did.
"I spent my childhood at this school. This is our last chance to say our final goodbyes," Martinez said.
Monday was the last day on the calendar for students at closing schools in Uptown and Andersonville deemed "underutilized" by Chicago Public Schools.
Stewart's 260 children are being sent to another Uptown locale, Joseph Brennemann Elementary School, 4251 N. Clarendon Ave.
In May, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close Stewart and Joseph Stockton Elementary School in Uptown, and Lyman Trumbull Elementary School in Andersonville. Most students at each schools are minorities from low-income households.
The vote included 47 other schools across the city and followed half a year of public meetings and protests where community members, teachers and activists tried to persuade CPS not to close the schools.
Officials said the closings were necessary to cut costs and make the system run more efficiently.
The school district's formula for determining which schools would be closed has been lambasted by critics. Parents at Trumbull last week filed a federal lawsuit accusing CPS of disregarding the needs of special education students in its formula and seeking a court order to halt the closing.
Of Trumbull's 400 children, nearly 37 percent are special education students. CPS has not commented on the legal action.
Monday was also the last day at Stockton, a school with about 500 students that CPS intends to merge with Mary E. Courtenay Elementary School, 1726 W. Berteau Ave.
The plan would shutter the Courtenay building in Ravenswood and send its students, about 300, and staff to Stockton — with Courtenay staff operating the school. Some Stockton teachers could fill vacancies at the new school, which would be renamed after Courtenay, but most teachers are expected to be ousted.
Herbert Amos, father of a seventh-grade student at Stockton, 4420 N. Beacon St., said he's "upset about a lot of the teachers leaving."
"I didn't see what was wrong with the school in the first place, " he said.
Amos said he was grateful, however, that his child would still be at the same building in the fall.
Trumbull parent Sefika Nasufovic said she was happy that her sixth-grade son would have the chance to chance to attend academically-achieving, Level 1-rated Chappell Elementary School in Ravenswood.
Chappell, along with Ravenswood's McPherson Elementary School, and McCutcheon in Uptown, are designated as "welcoming schools" to receive transferring students.
"I'm happy with my son," she said after dropping him off for his last day.
But not everybody was so pleased.
Trumbull parents have also expressed fears of sending their kids to McCutcheon, 4865 N. Sheridan Road, which resides in a neighborhood troubled by pockets of gang activity and violence.
Parents, students, and teachers at Trumbull were emotional outside the school Monday.
Angel Chavez, a seventh-grader at Trumbull, is sad to lose the opportunity to graduate next year from the school she has attended "since I was just a preschooler," she said. One teacher on her way into the school walked past reporters outside the building in tears, unable to say much.
"It's just too emotional to talk about it. I'm sorry," she said.
Trumbull Local School Council Chair James Morgan said, "It's been a rough year between the teacher's strike and the fight to keep the school open," but vowed that the council will continue to fight CPS to keep Trumbull open.
"We've really worked hard to be the voice of the parents," Morgan said.
The Trumbull community isn't the only school community clinging to hope that closings will be halted.
Parents and the Chicago Teachers Union recently filed a suit in Cook County Circuit Court seeking an injunction against closing 10 schools — including Stockton and Stewart — that independent hearing officers said in April should be stopped or delayed.