Valerie Nelson can see the strain the recent Chicago school closings is having on her 12-year-old daughter, who attends Jean D. Lafayette Elementary School in Humboldt Park.
Her daughter, so worried about going a new school, has been crying and scratching at her face, according to Nelson.
“What she likes to say is, ‘Mom if I knew whose idea it was to close Lafayette, I’d go over to his house, stick him to a cactus and duct tape him,'” Nelson said, choking up.
She’s also worried about the transition her daughter faces, along with other parents whose children were uprooted from their neighborhood schools slated to close. That worry is acerbated by knowing what programs are available to parents to make the transition to new schools easier.
Parents are now demanding that they be included in whatever transition plans the Chicago Public Schools has available.
“From the beginning of the situation, [CPS CEO] Barbara Byrd-Bennett has promised a smooth transition,” said Rousemary Vega, a parent of two children at Lafayette. “They’re not telling us anything we’re being offered. They’re not telling us our options. They’re not telling us any recommendations.”
All Chicago public school students will be out of class by June 24, with the new school year starting up Aug. 26. That gives CPS little more than two months to complete transition planning and get the information to parents, teachers and students. CPS is in the process of planning its “social and emotional support” programs for transitioning students.
Some individualized programs at the receiving schools are reportedly already under way.
“CPS understands that whenever students transition to a new school, additional support is needed to help them adjust to a new environment,” according to statement released from CPS’s communications office.
“CPS will,” the statement continues, “provide resources and work with schools to design a school-specific program of support.”
Neither CPS officials nor principals at the receiving schools responded to numerous requests for information on individualized transition plans.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett has said that CPS would continue to work with parents on transition plans before the next school year. But the parents say they haven’t been involved in this process.
“We’re being left out in the cold, once again being given the cold shoulder,” Vega said. “It’s the worst thing that can happen to a parent and there’s nothing you can do.”
Parent Torrence Shorter agreed that parents should be part of the planning process.
“At least one strong parent should be on the process. We would like to see some of it and see how it works and if it’s going to benefit the kids,” said Shorter, a parent of four students at Martin A. Ryerson Elementary School on the West Side, which is closing.
CPS has released general information about what might be included in transitional programs, including intervention groups or cultural integration activities.
“I’m hopeful if that’s what they’re going to strongly push,” Shorter said. “Don’t push it, make it happen. That’s what I want, make it happen.”
Nelson has her own suggestions.
One is a field trip for families to get acquainted with their new schools, and more than just a 30-minute meet-and-greet. She and other Lafayette parents have already requested that but they say they’ve never received an answer.