Emanuel and Byrd-Bennett have said students will be moved to schools that are performing better academically and that CPS will work with Chicago police and community groups to ensure students can get to and from their new schools safely. They also have promised all of the schools that receive students from closed buildings will have air conditioning and a library, and that students in third through eighth grades will be given iPads.
Byrd-Bennett proposed in March that 54 schools and programs be closed. She revised her recommendation on Wednesday, asking the board to spare four schools. Three were left open because they have unique initiatives, such as a program for hearing impaired students and child/parent center. The other was saved because it is the only magnet school in one area of the city.
The board — whose members are appointed by Emanuel — agreed with her recommendations, ultimately voting to close one high school program and 49 elementary schools, which serve students up to eighth grade. One closing will be delayed by one year; the remaining schools are scheduled to close at the end of the current academic year.
Whether the closings impact Emanuel politically could depend greatly on how things play out over those next few months. If all goes smoothly, he could be the mayor who finally found a way to turnaround the nation’s third-largest school district. If they don’t, said political analyst Don Rose, “it’s going to be trouble.”
Alison Burke, whose 3-year-old son is in the pre-kindergarten program at Trumbull Elementary, which will be closed, predicted the vote will trigger an exodus from the city by parents.
“No question about it,” she said. “I’ve talked to hundreds of parents who all say if their kids can’t get into neighborhood schools they can’t stay.”
Nina Stoner’s four kids attend West Pullman Elementary on the city’s South Side, which the board also voted to close. She said she plans to “boycott” CPS rather than let her children go to their new school, which is located in rival gang territory.
“It’s a war. It’s not safe,” Stoner said.
Stoner said the gang members to the north of her neighborhood already have gotten “really aggressive.” She’s had one family member jumped by the gang, and another who was shot.
And she’s already made up her mind about the mayor in 2015.
“He won’t get no vote from me,” she said.