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Chicago Parents Worry About Dangers Of School Closings

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Parents protest the closure of 54 Chicago Public Schools next year.

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Chicago Board of Education Vice President Jesse Ruiz appeared on NBC 5 Today to discuss the CPS decision to close 54 schools.

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About 30,000 Chicago Public Schools children will be affected by the newly announced closures of 54 schools next year. Parents say that's not just an inconvenience, but a potential danger.

"We’re surrounded by different gangs," parent Yolanda Harris said. "So making kids cross into different, you know, they’re saying 'safe passages.' It’s a safe passage after something happens.”

Harris, the parent of four young boys, organized a 10 a.m. rally to speak out about the closures and the additional problems kids must face because of the change. For children in some neighborhoods, crossing gang lines is a real fear that, because of new consolidations, can't be avoided.

"It’s hard because the kids are getting killed," said parent Francia Smalls, whose three young children attend Mahalia Jackson, which is on the list to close. "And that's my only fear, that they're not going to be safe."

List and Map of School Closings

Parents whose children must attend a new school worry their kids will become the next victims of Chicago gun violence. Yanika Batey said her kids' new school, in Woodlawn, is about six blocks away from the old one, which is enough distance to raise concerns. 

"They can terrorize our kids, bully our kids when we're trying to change things," Batey said.

All the current students at Dumas Elementary in Woodlawn get to stay, but teachers will be transferred. That doesn't set well with the students or teachers.

"I’m just so sad for them because they are getting a good quality education here," Dumas counselor and case manager Stacie Beach said. "And just to totally take apart everything that they’ve known and replace it with new teachers is just wrong.”

Harris said her son cried all last night about Dumas' shakeup. “I tried to explain it but they don’t understand that," Harris said. "You’re ripping them away.”

The 54 schools on the list to close are mostly on the South and West sides, but Trumbull Elementary on the North Side wasn't spared either.

“We knew we were being considered, but we really thought we’d be taken off because Trumbull is almost 37 percent special education so the formula they were using didn’t apply to our school,” parent Ali Burke said.

It marks the largest number of closures in one district nationwide, and some parents aren't giving up. At the morning rally, parents cried and held signs in hopes of changing someone's mind.

“My little brother likes this school, especially her teachers," Nichelle Phillips said. "My sister too. She’s gone here for three  years. So I don’t really know what to say. It’s a shame."

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