DOWNTOWN — The Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 Chicago schools Wednesday after getting an earful from aldermen, the teachers union and residents.
Nine aldermen lined up to tell the six-person board appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel that they disagreed with the closure plan, but the board ultimately took CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett’s recommendations.
The vote to close 50 schools was unanimous, except for Von Humboldt Elementary. Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz and board member Dr. Carlos Azcoitia voted to keep the Humboldt Park school open, but they were outnumbered and it will close.
The board voted to keep four schools open, including Manierre Elementary, Ericson, Mahalia Jackson and Marcus Garvey schools. In addition, the closing of Canter school will be delayed a year, and the proposed “turnaround” of Clara Barton school — in which all teachers and staff would be replaced — will be scrapped.
“I know this is incredibly difficult, but I firmly believe the most important thing we can do as a city is provide the next generation with a brighter future,” Emanuel said in a statement following the vote. “More hard work lies ahead, but I am confident that together with teachers and principals, engaged parents and community support, our children will succeed.”
Chicago Teachers Union member Kristine Mayle was upset by the meeting, where board members voted based on numbers and not on the school names.
“It’s so dehumanizing,” she said. “They can’t even read the names. They just went by number.”
Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) said during a Wednesday ward meeting that the entire process has been “psychologically damaging” and has “pitted parent against parent, community against community.”
Fioretti was not the only alderman speaking out about the closures. During Wednesday’s meeting, Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) criticized the city’s decision to close schools while “simultaneously opening charters,” and Ald. Joe Moreno (1st) said “there will be no public schools” remaining in East Humboldt Park if the district decided to close Lafayette Elementary, which they ultimately did.
Shannon Bennett of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization was ushered out by security after calling the board “illegitimate.” Other KOCO members were also removed from the meeting.
Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey brought up safety issues, saying students will be put in harm’s way by being forced to leave their neighborhood school.
“We need the board to commit that we will not lose any students,” Sharkey said. “We need you to commit that no one will be hurt on their way to school next year. We need actual promises, or else you shouldn’t be closing any schools.”
Erica Clark, a North Side parent who has a child at Jones College Prep, took to the podium just before noon and read off a list of each school up for vote.
When her two minutes were up, Clark kept reading. She then sat on the ground while reading the names to the quiet room and when a muscular security guard lifted her up and dragged her out, she kept reading.
“I have to go to these hearings and hear these parents with children in wheelchairs … fighting to keep these schools open,” she said, adding that she can’t sit by watching. “They would never do that to my kids, to white middle class kids. It’s wrong.”
Many speakers blamed an increase in charter schools for the “underutilization” of neighborhood schools on the chopping block, but charter supporters disagreed.
“We’re tired of being blamed for the choice we made,” said Antoinette Sea-Geralds of Charter Parents United, asking for more funding for charter schools.
CPS designated two hours for public comments at the Wednesday meeting, and there have been dozens of community meetings in the months leading up to the vote. Still, some said their voices have not been heard.
“As I said from the beginning, it was a charade,” Fioretti said. “I think the hearings were a charade, I didn’t see the mayor or [Barbara Byrd-Bennett] at any of the hearings.”
As public comments wrapped up, Byrd-Bennett defended the public hearing process — and the decision to close schools.
“Members of our community have provided recommendations, alternatives and suggestions and solutions. And we have listened,” she said. “The status quo is not acceptable to our children. … Like it or not, the system does have to change.”
Those opposed to closings have called them racist, as they’re concentrated on the South and West sides, and argued against them on civil rights grounds. The Chicago Teachers Union is backing two federal lawsuits filed last week against the closings.
Emanuel has defended the closings throughout the process, and said Tuesday he was ready to take a political hit on the matter, saying, “I will absorb the political consequence so our children have a better future.”
Schools that will stay open are:
Manierre, 1420 N. Hudson Ave.
Garvey, 10309 S. Morgan St.
Mahalia Jackson, 917 W. 88th St
Ericson, 3600 W. 5th Ave.
The remaining elementary schools on the list for closure are:
Altgeld, 1340 W. 71st St.
Armstrong, 5345 W. Congress Parkway
Attucks, 5055 S. State St.
Banneker, 6656 S. Normal Blvd.
Bethune, 3030 W. Arthington St.
Bontemps, 1241 W. 58th St.
Buckingham, 9207 S. Phillips Ave.
Calhoun North, 2833 W. Adams St.
Canter, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave. (delayed until 2014-15 school year)
Delano, 3937 W. Wilcox St.
Dumas, 6650 S. Ellis Ave.
Duprey, 2620 W. Hirsch St.
Emmet, 5500 W. Madison St.
Fermi, 1415 E. 70th St.
Garfield Park, 3250 W. Monroe St.
Goldblatt, 4257 W. Adams St.
Goodlow, 2040 W. 62nd St.
Closing schools. Crossing gang turf.
Henson, 1326 S. Avers Ave.
Herbert, 2131 W. Monroe St.
Key, 517 N. Parkside Ave.
King, 740 S. Campbell Ave.
Kohn, 10414 S. State St.
Lafayette, 2714 W. Augusta Blvd.
Lawrence, 9928 S. Crandon Ave.
Marconi, 230 N. Kolmar Ave.
May, 512 S. Lavergne Ave.
Mayo, 249 E. 37th St.
Morgan, 8407 S. Kerfoot Ave.
Near North, 739 N. Ada St.
Overton, 221 E. 49th St.
Owens, 12450 S. State St.
Paderewski, 2221 S. Lawndale Ave.
Parkman, 245 W. 51st St.
Peabody, 1444 W. Augusta Blvd.
Pershing West, 3200 S. Calumet Ave.
Pope, 1852 S. Albany Ave.
Ross, 6059 S. Wabash Ave.
Ryerson, 646 N. Lawndale Ave.
Sexton, 6020 S. Langley Ave.
Songhai, 11725 S. Perry Ave.
Stewart, 4525 N. Kenmore Ave.
Stockton, 4420 N. Beacon St.
Trumbull, 5200 N. Ashland Ave.
Von Humboldt, 2620 W. Hirsch St.
West Pullman, 11941 S. Parnell Ave.
Williams Multiplex, 2710 S. Dearborn St.
Williams Prep, 2710 S. Dearborn St.
Woods, 6206 S. Racine Ave.
Yale, 7025 S. Princeton Ave.
In addition, the high school program at Mason school, 4217 W. 18th St., would be discontinued, while the elementary school program would remain.
Proposed “co-locations,” in which schools would share buildings:
Richard T. Crane Medical Prep High School with Chicago Talent Development High School and Richard T. Crane Technical Prep High School
Noble-Comer with Revere Elementary School
New Noble High School with Bowen High School
Montessori Charter of Englewood with O’Toole
Kwame Nkrumah Charter with Gresham
New KIPP with Hope High School
Disney II expansion with Marshall Middle School
Belmont Cragin K-8 with Northwest Middle School (Belmont Cragin pre-K program remains in current location)
New Noble High School with Corliss High School
Dodge with Morton
Drake with Urban Prep Academy for Young Men-Bronzeville
Proposed turnarounds, in which all teachers and staff would be replaced: