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First Wave of Chicago Schools Closing Wednesday

Today marks the last day of class for many Chicago Public  Schools  students, but for those at more than two dozen Track E schools, it’s  the  last day there for good.

Despite protests from parents and the Chicago Teachers  Unions, the first  wave of schools marked to close will shut their doors  Wednesday as part  of a plan  approved last month by the city’s Board of Education. In total, the final  bell will ring at 28 schools.

During  a Tuesday night discussion, schools chief Barbara  Byrd-Bennett gave a  positive outlook of the school district and a better  relationship with  the teachers union and community.

“No one believes CPS,  no one trusts us,” Byrd-Bennett  said, “and I think the only way you can  attack that belief is to continue to be  as engaged as you can with as  many aspects of the community.”

She predicts students’  performance will improve, attendance  will rise and fewer students will  drop out if her five-year plan is  followed.

Outside the auditorium where Byrd-Bennett spoke, parents and  teachers protested school closings and CPS budget cuts. The CTU said  these important decisions are being made by the city’s wealthy “elite” who  aren’t focused on the best interests of the students.

“There’s  something about these folks who use little black  and brown children as  stage props at one press conference while announcing they  want to fire,  lay off or lock up their parents at another press conference,”  CTU president Karen Lewis said.

Lewis said the layoffs of hundreds of teachers and school  closings are disproportionately affecting African-American communities.

Last  week more than 850 Chicago Public Schools teachers and  staffers at  closing and turnaround schools were laid off. Up to 420 teachers  from  closing schools received pink slips, along with 110 teacher assistants   and 133 bus aides and part-time seasonal employees.