Mayor Rahm Emanuel says the closures are necessary because too many Chicago Public School buildings are half-empty, with 403,000 students in a system that has seats for more than 500,000. But opponents say the closures will further erode troubled neighborhoods and endanger students who may have to cross gang boundaries to attend school. The schools slated for closure are all elementary schools and are overwhelmingly black and in low-income neighborhoods.
CPS officials say money being spent to keep underutilized schools open could be better used to educate students elsewhere as the district deals with a $1 billion budget deficit. About 30,000 students will be affected by the plan, with about half that number moving into new schools.
“Every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high quality education that prepares them to succeed in life, but for too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because they are in underutilized, under-resourced schools,” said district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “As a former teacher and a principal, I’ve lived through school closings and I know that this will not be easy, but I also know that in the end this will benefit our children.”
As word of the closures trickled out, parents and teachers reacted with anger and shock, some even crying. Sandra Leon said she got a tearful call from her grandchildren’s kindergarten teacher saying the school was on the list to be closed. Her two grown children also attended the school, and Leon wiped her eyes as she waited outside for her grandchildren.
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