Today marked the beginning of the Tuesday Walk the Walks from closing schools to receiving schools. I went on the afternoon walk, from Ericson to Sumner.
I didn't see the Mayor! The Closer, on the other hand, was apparently at her own walk at Fenger High where she touted something called Safe Passage. She walked with four students and the media.
So. We're on dueling Walks now.
Whatever. I walked with sign-waving, cheering Leif Ericson families, teachers, drummers, and neighbors. I bet there were a hundred kids. What an exuberant crowd! These families love their school. It's just off 290 on Homan, adjacent to a big beautiful park, close to Garfield Park Conservatory. It has the most charming entryway atrium of any elementary school I've ever seen, 4 computer labs, a science lab, morning and afternoon preschool. All the kids I talked to told me how much they loved their school.
I know they have their own Walks now. But I just wish the Mayor and the Closer would come, walk, look, listen. At the schools they're closing. I think they would be absolutely shocked at what they are asking of these families.
I was. That walk was sure an education, but not in the good wholesome elementary school sense.
Here are the things I learned.
Kids from the Ericson neighborhood will have to cross 290 to get to their new school.
Condemned buildings are marked with a red X sign. The city usually does nothing about them.
There are a lot of buildings with red X signs on them on this walk.
Pit bulls are common around here, often wandering off leash. We saw one with neither collar nor leash staring out the open door of a bungalow. The owner held him in the house with his knee and watched us as we walked past.
Pit bull fighting and breeding is common in this neighborhood.
There are four different gangs that operate around here. As we crossed 290 on the return trip we passed four big-pants hat-backwards black-clad leering youths, and as soon as they saw them the girls behind me changed our chant from "Save Our Schools!" to "Save Our Schools So We Don't Turn Into Them!"
Shoes hanging on a line mean drugs are available here. A mom I walked with pointed out shoes on the line above our heads, and sure enough, just then three young people busted out of the door below to watch us pass, smirking, giggling, and gawking.
I can show you the street corners where gangs gather in the summer. There's more gang activity over by Sumner than by Ericson, and it's heavier north of Sumner than south. Actually on the blocks adjacent to Sumner itself.
The smell of pot hangs in the air as you walk east on the north side of 290.
There is not one single sidewalk that is useable on the entire walk. Broken concrete, odd severe holes, mud, trash.
The kids of Ericson school are as charming as any grade school kids anywhere. One thoughtful 6th grader told me he grew up at Ericson. His proud mom chimed in adding "And he's been on the honor roll all along." One 9 year old told me she loved everything about Ericson, especially reading. Her older sister said she really appreciated the teachers. She's 13 and does not want to switch schools for her last year.
The idea that elementary school children should make this most-of-a-mile walk through these neighborhoods across these gang lines over these sidewalks--Mayor, it's shocking. There's an injustice over here, if you see it. Why don't you come have a look.
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