AUBURN GRESHAM — While students seemed excited about starting school on Monday at William Ryder Math and Science Elementary School, parents worried about the transition for their special education students, and others hoped a strong police presence would remain in force beyond the first day.
Ryder, 8716 S. Wallace St., is a receiving school for Garrett Morgan, 8407 S. Kerfoot Ave., which Chicago Public Schools closed in June along with 49 other underutilized schools. The merger means Ryder inherited 231 new students from Morgan for a total capacity of 450 students.
"I am excited about making new friends at my new school," said 10-year-old Ronda Liezy. "I think I will learn more at a new school because at my old school we had some bad kids who made it hard for me to learn."
The fourth grader at Ryder previously had attended Morgan in West Chatham.
However, parents were not as upbeat as students were about the school change.
Tassie White's 12-year-old daughter Sherrell White is in the sixth grade at Ryder and also has autism. She said the girl missed the bus this morning.
"The [school] bus was supposed to pick her up this morning and it didn't. Already there seems to be confusion with CPS because I had to bring her to school since the bus never showed up," contends Tassie.
David Miranda, a spokesman for CPS, disagreed.
"The GPS reports from the vendor serving that route show that a bus did stop at the Whites' household at 7:46 a.m.," Miranda said via email.
Stacy Carothers-Johnson was worried about the transition for her son, who has autism.
"Most kids with autism do not adapt well to changes," she said. "I know Ryder has Special Ed kids, too, but I don't know anything about those kids like I did at Morgan."
Others were upset about the longer commute caused by the change.
"I live across the street from Morgan so you know this is a big inconvenience for me to have to bring my kids to Ryder," said Cliffton Terry, whose son and daughter now attend Ryder. "The people making all these decisions about our kids don't have kids that go to CPS. They don't live in urban 'jungles' where walking in the wrong hood could get you killed. So if I sound angry, it is because I am angry. I'm quite pissed off at the way CPS went about closing schools and consolidating them."
Some parents, though, said they had no problem with new students being merged into Ryder as long as the kids' education doesn't suffer.
"I'm comfortable with the students coming here. I just hope it does not cause kids to receive less attention from the teacher with more kids in the classroom," said Voryage Jackson, who has a daughter in kindergarten, Deanna, and another in first grade, Sadaria. "Only time will tell."
Several police officers were stationed at the South Side school. The school's principal, Aaron Rucker, is a Chicago police officer on leave.
"Yeah, I thought about how safe would it be for kids to walk across Halsted to get to Ryder. But I see there are plenty of police officers out this morning," said Mary Lasley, an Auburn Gresham resident whose 12-year-old son, Dangelo Lasley, is in the seventh grade. "Let's hope it stays that way all year long."