BRONZEVILLE — Parents of former students at the shuttered Overton Elementary School are questioning why Chicago Public Schools is trying to sell the building while the U.S. Department of Education is still investigating the closure of the school.
The school at 221 E. 49th St. was closed in 2013 and the students moved to Mollison Elementary School, which prompted parents to ask the feds to investigate whether the overcrowding was a violation of the students’ civil rights.
“They shouldn’t be moving on that building at all,” Angela Ross, the last chairwoman of Overton’s Local School Council, said Tuesday.
The U.S. Education Department confirmed that it's still investigating whether students’ civil rights were violated when Overton was closed. A representative from the department declined to comment on the possible sale of the Overton building.
CPS is looking for bidders interested in turning the former school at 221 E. 49th St. and the former child-parent center into a rec center, housing, a technology hub or another use. Buyers who want to operate a charter school or reopen the building as a public school are not being considered.
"CPS is committed to community process that repurposes each former school site in a way that meets the wishes of the surrounding neighborhood," said Michael Passman, a spokesman for CPS. "The district has worked closely with local elected officials and residents to determine favored uses and is soliciting bids that restrict uses to match community preferences."
Neighborhood groups are already saying they won’t touch the building because of the stigma still attached to Overton.
“We don’t want to be the recipients of a resource taken from another group in our community,” said Roderick Wilson, executive director of the Lugenia Burns Hope Center at 710 E. 47th St.
He said the Hope Center was planning a senior center for the building, but backed off after meeting with neighbors, who he said were still angry about the school closing. He said he thought any group interested in using the building would have a difficult time getting the community on board.
“Anyone who moves into that building is just as guilty as CPS,” said Ross, who is still hoping the building can serve neighborhood students.
She said her sixth-grade son and eighth-grade daughter now at Mollison would benefit from the Overton building being used for after-school programs, which their new building at 4415 S. King Drive doesn’t have room to accommodate.
Jeanette Taylor, chairwoman of Mollison’s Local School Council, agreed. She said the student population doubled to more than 450 with the addition of Overton students, putting space at a premium.
“That building could really be an add-on to Mollison,” Taylor said. “It could be used for after-school programs.”
She said the LSC is still hoping 3rd Ward Ald. Pat Dowell will hold a community meeting on how to reuse Overton before any decision is made.
Dowell could not be reached for comment.
The deadline for bids on the Overton buildings is April 27.
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