Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

First Wave of Chicago Schools Close for Good

The final bell will ring at 28 Track E Chicago public schools

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Teachers and students share memories on the last day of class for more than two dozen closing Chicago schools. Michelle Relerford reports.

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Wednesday marked 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 slated to be shuttered closed their doors Wednesday as part of a plan approved last month by the city's Board of Education. In total, the final bell rang 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.

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