ROGERS PARK — Rogers Park parents concerned about the proposed closure of Eugene Field Elementary are pitching an alternative idea to the community under the slogan, "Reunite the Fields."
The concept differs from Ald. Joe Moore's (49th) plan to close Eugene Field, fold its remaining students into Kilmer Elementary, and move Decatur Classical School from West Ridge into the empty Field building.
Under the parent-driven proposal, Eugene Field would remain open and join with feeder school New Field Elementary to create a cohesive K-8 school under one umbrella administration between the two buildings.
At 4 p.m. Thursday, parents and community members from both Field schools will be joining for a rally and march starting at New Field, 1707 W. Morse Ave. and ending approximately 0.3 miles away at Eugene Field Elementary, 7019 N. Ashland Blvd.
On Sept. 28, Annie Gill-Bloyer, a parent and chair of the New Field LSC, and three other parents representing both Field schools spoke before the Chicago Board of Education in support of their plan, adding that response from the New Field and Eugene Field communities to closure talks had been "overwhelmingly negative."
"We parents of New Field and Eugene Field believe that with a continuity of curriculum and instruction, strong unified leadership and a smooth transition from one building to the other, we can continue the excellent educational offerings that New Field provides its students,” Gill-Bloyer said before the board.
At a meeting late August, Moore held a community meeting with principals, parents and community members from Decatur, New Field, Kilmer and Sullivan High School to discuss his plan; however most of the comments expressing opposition or skepticism of the proposal were left for the end, including those requesting specific details for how CPS would accommodate the new Kilmer structure.
"I'm not going to make any promises tonight of a grander plan because the fact of the matter is, I don't have one," Moore said at the meeting.
Parents said they understood the difficult position facing Decatur, but some felt the Field building should be kept open and operating as a neighborhood school.
Maria Sandoval, a resident of Rogers Park for 24 years with four kids (two of whom are still in the CPS system) whose comments were translated into English as she spoke at the board meeting, said she didn't feel a switch to Kilmer would necessarily be a better education compared to Eugene Field.
"Why don’t we work together instead of trying to close our school?" Sandoval said.
Gill-Bloyer said she met Tuesday with Network 2 Chief Eduardo Cesario to talk about the unification of Field schools. She says he told her that forthcoming school rankings are expected to rate Eugene Field a Level 1 school, while Kilmer would land in the Level 2 range.
She said she was also told by Cesario that when schools merge, the school that is closing and the school it is being absorbed into must have the same ranking, meaning if Eugene Field ends up scoring higher than Kilmer, Moore's plan may be moot.
Cesario and Moore didn't return requests for comment.
Gill-Bloyer said the idea to make a K-8 school out of the two Field schools has been "out there" for years, but parents' efforts ramped up after recent talks about moving Eugene Field's fourth-graders to New Field.
In the final week of school before summer break, CPS officials announced their idea to take fourth-grade from Eugene Field and move it to New Field, which was approved within days.
Gill-Bloyer said she doesn't want that to happen again, especially considering Moore said he would present his idea to the Board of Education at its 10:30 a.m. Oct. 28 meeting, so it could be approved by the end of the year, if he felt there was enough positive feedback.
"They're coming back with a lot of language like, 'Everything is just a proposal,' 'nothing's actually happening,' 'it's very early in the process,' but I just don't believe that given that CPS came to us the last week of school in June and said, 'We just have this proposal about moving fourth grade,' and then next week that proposal was a reality," Gill-Bloyer said.
"All of us at New Field and Eugene Field are just suspicious of proposals ... since we know meetings on this have been happening since at least as early as March."
The new plan doesn't include Decatur, an overcrowded selective enrollment school in West Ridge that for years has pleaded for more space and an added seventh and eighth grades to ease pressure off its middle school-bound students.
Decatur has been outspoken about their concerns for years and tried to work with CPS in the past to find options for a larger campus, including moving into Stewart Elementary School in Uptown or Trumbull Elementary in Andersonville, both of which have been shuttered.
CPS did not approve of either building for use by Decatur, and instead recently sold Stewart to a real estate developer for $5.1 million.
Trumbull was slated to become a community theater, but the future of that plan is unclear at this stage.
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