Hundreds of teachers, parents and students gathered Saturday to voice their opinions on the consolidation of Chicago schools, stating reasons given for school closures don’t merit the switch.
In the first of many hearings to come, dozens of community members from Leif Erickson Elementary voiced safety concerns and said their school does not deserve to be on the list of closures.
“We have the highest enrollment of the 54 schools on the closing list,” said Ericson math teacher Michale Colwell. “We have a significantly higher enrollment than our future school, Sumner. A significantly higher utilization rate than Sumner. Get Leif Ericson off the list.”
Ericson Elementary is one of many schools slotted for closure in the next year under the CPS’s plan, which will affect about 30,000 students. The plan will bring Ericson students to Sumner Elementary in the Lawndale neighborhood, a move parents say is too dangerous.
The meeting was designed to give the East Garfield Park community a chance to express their opinions to CPS administration and was one of many held throughout affected districts. The Saturday meetings drew more than 350 teachers, parents and students from across districts.
“We are jumping through hoops but if that’s what we have to do to keep our school open we’ll jump through hoops,” said Cynthia Johnson, whose two children attend Leif Ericson. “Give us a chance.”
Johnson said the trip to Sumner Elementary is one that would take students out of the community they know and is too dangerous.
Ald. Jason Ervin said he did not approve of the plan and said it made "zero sense" to take students out of their communities.
“You can have one bus, two bus, three, four, five busses, those busses will be empty because those children will not and should not leave their community for basic education,” said.
In a statement released Saturday afternoon, CPS thanked the community members who participated in the meetings for remaining peaceful and productive. They addressed the safety concerns by stating they are currently and will continue to work closely with the Chicago Police Department to safely plan routes for students who will be traveling to new schools.
“We recognize these proposals are difficult, but too many children in CPS today are trapped in underutilized, under-resourced schools and aren't getting the quality education they deserve,” Chief Communications Officer for CPS Beck Carroll said in a statement. “Consolidating underutilized schools will allow us to redirect resources to welcoming schools this fall so all children have a quality, 21st-century education with the investments needed to succeed, with a safety plan for every school created in collaboration with the Chicago Police Department to provide safe routes to and from school and supports for a safe learning environment in every school.”