Schools Consider Closing for G8/NATO

St. Ignatius is considering keeping students at home during the week of the G8

Tens of thousands of protesters are expected for the NATO and G8 summits this spring in Chicago, and for businesses and schools in the path of those anticipated demonstrations, owners say it isn't too early to have a plan of action.

At the Erie LaSalle Body Shop, owner Bob Gottfred is considering adding more cameras to the six he already has. He said he's concerned but has not considered shutting down the shop.

"Absolutely, I don't think we should give into this," Gottfred said.

Still, there are a million intangibles related to the summits. Should churches adjust their mass schedules? What about schools?

At St. Ignatius, school leaders aren't just worried about potential mayhem downtown, they're concerned about getting students to and from school.

"We have 1,400 students who come from seven different counties," said Dr. Catherine Karl, principal at the school.

St. Ignatius is considering keeping students at home during the week of the G8, continuing lessons and classes by various electronic means.

There also are plans to conduct AP exams at another site in River Forest. Sporting events have been scheduled as away games and prom was moved to the weekend of May 27.

"We think it's a good chance for us to take things really seriously and see what we can do with it," Karl said.

They're not the only ones. Columbia College shortened its spring schedule to avoid students attending class around the Loop.

Indeed, there still are mysterious aspects of the event, which has left many institutions, especially downtown businesses, considering their options.

Arnette Heintze, the former man in charge of the Secret Service in Chicago who now advises businesses, said he doesn't blame some companies for being apprehensive about the unknown. Still he urges every owner to essentially take a deep breath and understand that many agencies, local and federal, are planning for every contingency.

"There is no way businesses should close," Heintze said. "Businesses should remain open and vibrant and welcoming of all guests we're going to have to this city."

At St. Ignatius no firm decisions have been made. But Dr. Karl said it is only prudent that they should be making very specific preparations.

"It's sort of like a political blizzard," Karl said. "You can't do anything about the weather, but you plan for it."

St. Ignatius hasn't made a formal decision on whether or not they will conduct classes with students at home. Heintze said there is plenty of behind-the-scenes planning that is well underway and likely will never be made public.

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