ROGERS PARK — After a more than 15 percent cut to its annual budget, a mostly defunct summer program and brief recess cancellation due to a shooting on school grounds, Gale Elementary School in Rogers Park is finally getting some much-needed assistance in the form of school supply donations.
Rogers Park Chamber of Commerce is trying to get 100 backpacks filled with school supplies by Aug. 21 in support of students at Gale.
Bill Morton, president of chamber, said after so many blows to Gale over the years, his organization wanted to give back to the neighborhood school. He wants Gale to remain in the community and not become next in line for the Chicago Public Schools' chopping block, as they've felt in the past. Other fears have included becoming consolidated into a building with a charter school.
"We are giving back to our community by supporting the Gale School parents and students, who need attention right now," Morton said.
The group is asking for No. 2 pencils, folders, notebooks, erasers, tissue paper boxes, wet naps, backpacks without wheels, rulers and more.
People also may donate by check or gift card, made out to the Chamber and marked “Gale School Supplies,” according to the chamber's flyer. Supplies can be dropped off at the chamber's 7231 N. Sheridan Rd. location.
The donations come at a crucial time for Gale, the only OS4 Network school in Rogers Park, which in mid-July got its official CPS budget that included an overall $362,071 slash.
A 40-student slump in enrollment wiped out $192,423 in funding, according to CPS.
Last year, Gale faced a $310,000 budget cut that put its before- and after-school programs in jeopardy, nixed new books from the annual budget, forced the school's administration to lay off its sole librarian and put other teachers' jobs on the line. In 2013, Gale experienced a $448,000 hit.
That $448,000 budget decrease for the 2013-14 school year gave Gale Principal Cassandra Washington only 10 days to determine where to make cuts, which included not filling two vacancies left by retiring teachers and letting go of a part-time art teacher.
Overall, Gale has experienced $1.1 million in cuts over the past three years.
On the last day of school this year, Washington made a robo-call to parents of the nearly 100 kids who had enrolled in the school's free summer program that the camp had been canceled because its funds were not included in Gov. Bruce Rauner's most recent education budget bill.
Gale needed Rauner's approval for the program because it is part of CPS' Office of Strategic School Support Services program, which manages federal funds for neighborhood schools — funds that need to be released by the Illinois State Board of Education and CPS.
The program was critical at the time because parents felt it would be a safe haven for students who lived in the neighborhood.
Just weeks before school at Gale was to end for the year, a fatal shooting occurred on school grounds around the corner from where a class of third-graders were outside having recess, causing recess's cancellation until CPS agreed to have additional security at the school for the final two weeks.
After backlash from parents, CPS later partially reinstated the program on a smaller scale.
Conversely, nearby UNO Rogers Park, a charter school that opened in the fall of 2012 in the former St. Scholastica's Academy, saw a $1,515,899 spending increase — at least $724,491 from an expected 151-student enrollment boost.
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