Ackisha Williams’ 4-year-old son has a great relationship with most of the teachers at Robert Emmet Elementary School.
Students like her son build these relationships for the almost 10 years they attend Emmet, Williams said. And this is one reason why she and other community members don’t want their school to close.
A group of parents, community organizers and teachers from Emmet hosted a press conference on April 15, in front of the Austin High School campus, 231 N. Pine. They want Emmet, 5500 W. Madison, to stay open and gave their reasons why it should.
The official proposal to close Emmet and dozens of other schools in the city came last month. The Chicago Board of Education will officially take action on the proposal May 22.
Williams, who’s also a teacher at Emmet, said the school has a sense of family — many neighborhood residents are former students. Williams argued that it would hurt students academically in having to transition to a new school, since many children have gone to Emmet — a pre-K-8 school — for years.
The press conference took place last week during a Chicago Public Schools community hearing for Francis Scott Key Elementary School, one of four Austin schools slated to close this summer. No Key parents spoke at the April 15 meeting, but the activists from Emmet did.
Overall, the various community meetings taking place so far have been sparsely attended.
According to CPS, the school closings were based on how utilized the buildings are, in terms of students versus the number of classrooms. But Williams argues that Emmet is Austin’s most occupied elementary school, with 66 percent building capacity.
She added that a majority of students have been meeting academic standards on state tests.
About 70 percent of Emmet’s students met or exceeded state standards on the 2012 Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT). That percentage was down just three points from 2011. But Williams said students have been working hard over past years to help keep these scores high.
Emmet parent Lettrice Jamison agreed.
She said she doesn’t see why Emmet has to close, especially because of its academic scores. Jamison, who’s also president of Emmet’s Local School Council, also fears how the kids will fair at their new schools, with their new teachers and classmates. Oscar DePriest or Duke Ellington elementary schools are their likely destination next fall.
Jamison urged CPS to use the empty parts of Emmet for GED classes or other community services. Even if the school closes, she insists the building should still be used productively.
“They need to let teachers and parents have something they can use the building for,” Jamison said. “Let us decide what we should do with our building.”
Jamison has been passing around a petition to fight Emmet’s closure. So far, she’s gathered about 65 signatures and planned to present that list at Emmet’s public hearing at CPS headquarters, 125 N. Clark, this week.
Meanwhile, Williams, who is a tenured teacher, will not find out until August if she can still teach at either of the welcoming schools. But most importantly for her, Williams doesn’t want to leave her Emmet family.
“My son…he keeps telling everyone, ‘My school is closing, but I’m not going anywhere,'” she said.