Students marched and chanted from Chicago Public Schools headquarters to the mayor’s office at City Hall on March 25 to personally deliver a nearly 3-foot-long letter with demands to stop school closures.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel wasn’t present, but mayoral representative Felicia Davis came out to receive the letter from the group calling themselves Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools. She appeared after the group continuously chanted, “We want Rahm! We want Rahm!”
The letter highlighted some key demands, including a moratorium on school closings and an elected Chicago school board — the latter would require a change in state law. Ninety-percent of city residents in 327 precincts voted for an elected school board in an advisory referendum appearing on the November 2012 ballot. State lawmakers, however, would have to change the law before Chicago residents can elect Chicago Board of Education trustees. Chicago is the only city in Illinois whose mayor appoints school board members.
Angelique Roberts, a junior at Lane Tech College Preparatory High School, said a moratorium would allow schools to improve their programs and perhaps better use their buildings.
The students hosted a press conference that Monday morning at the CPS Headquarters, 125 S. Clark St., before heading to the mayor’s office. On March 21, Chicago Public School announced the closing of 53 elementary schools and one high school. Some area schools will be consolidated under CPS’s plan.
Students at last Monday’s march discussed a number of issues, including safety and class sizes.
“The sad reality we face is that many of us are living in a community where there are gangs,” said Israel Munoz, an 18-year-old student at Kelly High School in Brighton Park.
It doesn’t appear that Austin-area students are part of the student protest group.
Austin Ald. Deborah Graham (29th), however, told the Chicago Tribune that CPS needs to solidify plans for students who’ll be crossing well-known gang territory next year.
“I believe they are working on it, but it’s time to hold their feet to the fire and have them produce it,” Graham said.
Austin’s Francis Scott Key Elementary, 517 N. Parkside, is among the schools to close. Those students will have to cross Lake Street and past the Green Line’s Central stop to get to Duke Ellington Elementary School. Battery and theft are among the seven reported crimes this year on the 5600 block of West Lake Street this year — where students would be crossing — according to the city’s crime data.
Lane Tech junior Roberts said she’s lucky she only has to take one bus to get to school from her West Englewood home. “I’m very privileged in that sense. Not every parent has the luxury of putting their kid on a bus.”