ROGERS PARK — The principal of Gale Elementary School in Rogers Park said she had "no choice" but to cancel recess for the rest of the school year after a man was shot just steps away from the school's community garden on Monday, leaving children and parents shaken.
Washington said during a local school council meeting Wednesday afternoon that at 1:05 p.m. Monday, she and others heard shots ring out as third graders were at recess near the school's soccer fields, which share a border with Ashland Avenue, where the shooting took place.
"We know [shooters are] brazen enough to do it at 1 p.m. in the afternoon, and as we already know they're brazen enough to do it at 9 a.m. like they did last year on Marshfield — so we can't take that chance," Washington said.
In April 2014, a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed on the same corner of Ashland and Joanquil avenues during a drive-by shooting.
Washington said although the students were not in close proximity to the corner where a 22-year-old man was shot twice in his back Monday, they were still outside as she called 911 and as police arrived.
"It was like, seconds, and the police were on the corner surrounding everything," she said. The school then went into lockdown mode.
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Washington said she didn't believe any of the kids at recess witnessed the shooting, but several parents exiting the building at that moment ran back inside "traumatized."
Minutes after the shooting, she said a class of students returning from a field trip also arrived. Staff and parents had "all hands on deck" as they tried to protect students by creating a barricade between them and the scene.
Now, she said, until school lets out June 19, recess is out of the question for Gale, making her students "not happy at all" with her — a feeling she says she can sympathize with.
"They already can't really play in the evening because so much [violence] is going on, it's just sad," Washington said.
Not long after police arrived, Washington said she called the principals of several neighboring schools, including Kilmer Elementary School at 6700 N. Greenview Ave. and Sullivan High School at 6631 N. Bosworth Ave. to let them know what had happened.
"We have to take care of each other," she said.
At a Tuesday night community safety meeting, Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) said in recent years violence has permeated the boundaries of Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park. "Shots fired on Howard Street ripple through Edgewater and trigger shootings on Wilson Avenue," he said.
Washington also said that the school has at least two security cameras that do not work properly, an issue that especially concerned her the week prior to the shooting: "I said in an email last week, 'Let's get these repaired before something happens.'"
Neighborhood activist Jim Ginderske said with over 300 shootings citywide in the month of May alone, it would be "unacceptable" for CPS to cut funding for the school's summer programs — a reality the school is currently facing.
Kyle Hillman, an LSC community representative, said the need to cut recess is a "sad" and "disgusting" byproduct of decreased funding for vital programs.
"This is what we get when we continue to cut city funding for services for communities like north of Howard," Hillman said. "We end up with a situation where schoolchildren can no longer play in their backyard, play in the playground under the fear of being shot from gang activity ... something's gotta change."
Other LSC members agreed, saying public support would be crucial in ensuring neighborhood kids remained safe while school was not in session.
For now, Washington said staff at Gale would continue to press on and assist students with crisis management counseling — something she said could be beneficial to anyone still nervous about the shooting.
"We're all on edge right now," Washington said. "Not just the kids, the adults too."
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