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CPS protesters give up sit-in, school closes for good | 28 out of 49 school buildings close Wednesday

June 19, 2013 9:00:18 PM PDT
The year 2013 will go down in Chicago Public Schools history. It began with the first teachers strike in 25 years, and ended with the closing, consolidation or turn-around of 49 school buildings.

Parents and students who staged a sit-in at Lafayette Elementary School, demanding it remain open, gave up their fight on Wednesday night.

The last to leave school were three parents and six children. They only left Lafayette Elementary school because, they say, they were going to be arrested and they were running low on supplies.

"We're gonna get separated cause that's what they continuously kept telling us.We're gonna separate you from your family. He would go to one jail,I would go to another, the kids would go somewhere else. They were scared. I had to make a decision and come out," said Rosemary Vega, a parent involved in sit-in.

Vega's daughter was asked what she would say to the school system's CEO.

"She made me really angry, because she's just playing with us like cards, and I don't like that," said Meleny Ramos, student.

"To close a school like this is astounding, and then on top of this we are seeing massive budget cuts across the city," said Pauline Lipman, University of Illinois at Chicago.

Pauline Lipman is a professor of education policy at University of Illinois at Chicago. She is studying the impact of the closures and came to support the parents at Lafayette.

"Many people are skeptical myself included since the promises in the past for the reasons for closing schools have not been delivered," said Lipman.

Emotional goodbye as CPS schools close for good

Students and teachers were visibly emotional at Lafayette Elementary School in Humboldt Park as school let out on Wednesday afternoon. The school has been in the community for about a century, and on Wednesday it closes its doors forever.

Students walked out for the last time with pride as protestors refused to give up the fight. But, many know it's time to move on, a reality that wasn't easy to swallow at Lafayette and 27 other Chicago Public Schools that closed for good today.

"It's sad because knowing that we're going to close our school, I'm going to miss everybody," said Kalani Martinez, Lafayette Elementary School student.

Staff members received layoff notices last week. The closures mean several hundred CPS teachers and aides will lose their jobs.

Lafayette teacher Heidi Ramos says she is heartbroken, while others are worried about the future.

"People are crying, people are packing. I mean I've been here my whole career. I have years of stuff that I have to pack up and bring home to my house," said Ramos.

"I have no idea, I don't know. I just have to keep applying and see if maybe I can get a full-time position somewhere," said Lourdes Castro, teacher.

The Chicago Teachers Union and some parents remain upset about the closure.

"We've marched, we've filed lawsuits, we've spoken at hundreds of hearings. . . This is a school that survived two great wars and the Great Depression but didn't survive Rahm Emanuel," said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey, adding that the mayor is investing "unnecessary" funds in other parts of the city.

"At least we had a fight, we did not go down without fighting and that's important and even our kids did fight too. So we did our best and all I can say is well I guess we got to move on," said Ruby Martinez, Lafayette Elementary parent.

Dozens of parents and students protested the closings in the Loop Tuesday night, demonstrating outside of an event where CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett spoke.

"We as a district and as a city owe it to every single child whether it's 80 percent or 90 percent minority, second-language learners, African Americans. . . We owe that same level of quality to those children," Byrd-Bennett said at the event.

Byrd-Bennett and CPS officials say the closures are necessary to maintain quality of education and a good learning environment.

On Wednesday, a statement on the closures was issued by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett:

"As we end this school year, it is time for us as a city to begin the work of creating a deep and lasting change in our schools to ensure a better life for our children, a better Chicago workforce and a better future for our city. Everyone has a shared responsibility to ensure students have a safe and smooth transition to their new school in the fall and are on a path to a bright future. We owe them our very best."


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