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CPS School Closings: Von Humboldt, Duprey Site of 'Candlelight' Vigil

 Students and teachers said their goodbyes on the last day of school Monday at Von Humboldt and Duprey elementary schools in Humboldt Park.
Last Day at Von Humboldt and Duprey
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HUMBOLDT PARK — There were plenty of hugs and tears at Von Humboldt Elementary as kids streamed from the building on the last day of school Monday afternoon.

The school — along with another school that shares its building, Duprey Elementary — is among 20 schools closing for good under a Chicago Public Schools plan to cut costs.

"For kids to seek you out to give you a hug on the last day, yeah, it's sad," said Von Humboldt Principal Julious Lawson.

Lawson, who's been at Von Humboldt for three years, is used to end-of-year goodbyes, but not like this one, which marked the end of more than a century of existence for Von Humboldt Elementary.

"For me, it's bittersweet," he said. "I think what's bitter is this is happening at all, though I'm glad the community has come together. I'm just not happy about why we had to come together."

As students — some teary-eyed — hugged and said goodbye, several parents, teachers and activists assembled on the southeast corner of the school property to protest the school closures.

Parents and activists from the Bickerdike affordable housing development were prominent in the vigil. According to Bickerdike community organizer Teran Loeppke, 300 Bickerdike households, or one-third, have been affected by the school closures.

As they held up mock candles made of construction paper in the bright afternoon sun, Pastor Tomas Sanabria of the Albany Park Evangelical Covenant Church and the Ekklesia Ministry of Helps in Humboldt Park characterized the event as a funeral.

Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) was a bit more optimistic.

"I just want to tell parents there's a new day," he said. "There is justice in this world. It may not happen today, but it will happen."

Magdalene Thurmond, a 35-year-old mother of two Duprey students and Bickerdike resident, gave an impassioned speech criticizing President Barack Obama for endorsing Rahm Emanuel for mayor who, in turn, appointed Barbara Byrd-Bennett as schools CEO.

Byrd-Bennett has been Emanuel's point woman for the closings, which CPS said was necessary because the targeted schools were underutilized and an inefficient use of the district's tight budget.

Thurmond said the school closures had thrown her family and community into chaos.

"This is a battle between the haves and have-nots," she said. "We're going to fight this injustice."