SOUTH AUSTIN — With a new school year right around the corner nearly 2,000 residents turned out Saturday to celebrate the end of summer at the annual West Garfield Park Back-to-School Parade and Picnic.
The parade, which began at North Laramie Avenue and West Washington Boulevard, featured nearly two dozen floats representing high schools, politicians, civic organizations and businesses, and drew hundreds of residents to their porches as it processed to John Marshall High School.
The event's sponsor, Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), gave out backpacks with school supplies.
"This is something we do to keep the young people interested in school," Ervin said. Chicago Public School students go back to school August 26th.
Ervin said with the start of a new school year, people need to move on from the school closings that have ravaged many Chicago communities, most of them black and Latino.
"We have to get past that. The adults may keep arguing, but the kids should stay in school," he said.
But it's not that simple, according to some at the parade.
"I was very sad because I'm going to miss my friends and teachers," said Essence Waterman, 11, of West Garfield Park.
Essence attended Garfield Park Prepatory Academy before it was shuttered by CPS, and in a few weeks will be starting over at Pritzker Academy.
"They shouldn't have even closed it," her mother, Eileen, said.
"They didn't take into account the struggles of some parents and how they would have to find new ways of getting their kids to school," she said.
Calvin Moore, 54, whose grandsons attend Cole Elementary, said he is disappointed in both CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
"I would tell the mayor to manage the city. Because now it's being as badly mismanaged as private corporations," Moore said.
"The money is being misapproriated. It's being directed to private enterprises which means they are unable to pay teachers and have to raid their pensions," he said.
Gov. Pat Quinn, who showed up near the end of the picnic that followed the parade, delivered brief remarks, shook hands and posed for photographs
After speaking to the crowd, Quinn expressed worry about the controversial school closings.
"I'm very concerned that things be done with care because we have to take care of the kids," the governor said.
"I'm a people person; that's why I'm here," he added without prodding.