Outrage Over Too Many Proposed Chicago Public School Closings On The South Side

Outrage Over Too Many Proposed Chicago Public School Closings On The South Side

I’m sure by now most people have seen the list of 129 Chicago Public Schools (CPS), that could be closed. And I’m sure we’ve all noticed how the south and west sides are overwhelmingly represented on this list. But I will concentrate on the two areas I know best.
The area I called home for over 30 years (until 5 years ago), is West Pullman and it has several schools on the list including Samuel Gompers Elementary 123rd State, Carver Elementary in Altgeld Gardens (aka “The Gardens”), housing project on east 133rd Street just west of the Bishop Ford Expressway, West Pullman Elementary 119th & Parnell, Jesse Owens, 124th State, Metcalfe Elementary 123rd & Normal and finally Aldridge Elementary on East 131st Street in “The Gardens”.
I got emotional as I wrote this and looked up the address for some of the schools I wasn’t sure of their location.
If I didn’t know better, I’d think Chicago was turning into Detroit (which I have to cover for in my work), and that the powers that be in the Chicago Public Schools and the city in general were just giving up on parts of the south and west side.
Yes I know these are high crime areas and lower student attendance and yes in West Pullman there are a lot of schools in a small area but what does it say to the children that remain these schools that are underperforming, under populated and in overwhelmed neighborhoods that you just give up on them?
Now granted I didn’t attend one of those schools, I attended another CPS school that is at risk to close Paul Revere Elementary 72nd & Ellis near South Shore. And several schools around it are possible closings too, Dumas Elementary 66th & Ellis (just on the other side of Oakwood Cemetery from Revere), & Enrico Fermi (East 70th Street just past the Stony Island Metra station).
Now Revere wasn’t the best school in the world but it had great teachers (full disclosure my mother taught there for 35 years), and good administration for many years. These were people who used their personal money for supplies, their spare time to make sure children were educated and stayed out of trouble (best example Arthur Robertson who founded the world famous South Shore Drill Team), and had unrivaled dedication to the teaching profession.
But I hear in the years since my attendance and my mother’s retirement (in 2000), and her colleagues retirement (Arthur Robertson retired in 2006), enrollment has dropped significantly and the area (which was never great), has worsened.
One thing that is a concern for those of us that know these areas is the significant gang activity. And if you close these schools, children will have to cross gang lines and this is no joke.
If you listen to the current hit song “Compton” by Kendrick Lamar (who is actually from LA), he mentions how people try to identify your gang affiliation with the gang operating in that area. Whether you are active in that gang or not. This is inner city truth. During my last year at Revere, it was known I didn’t live in the area and there were a few questions of what gangs were in my home turf. And trust me though I had no problems because of this, just simply being asked about gang affiliation at the age of 12 is not comfortable. It’s not always easy or sufficient to just say you are not a gang member, if you cross Halsted Street in West Pullman, that’s a gang line. If you cross 119th Street, that’s a border. The colors change, the affiliations change and there are even smaller sects within those areas. This is not to be taken lightly. As a kid in these areas you have familiarity with what’s going on in your blocks but going to an outside area is usually not safe.
I don’t know if the big wigs at CPS have thought about this but they need too, just busing kids around is not enough, their safety needs to be a prominent a thought as their education and in neighborhoods with high crime, schools need to be oasis for these kids.

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    Charles W. Johnson

    I'm a lifelong writer (since I was 8 years old), and have been doing this blog in some form or fashion since 2004. I'm a DePaul University alum, class of 1999 and prior to that Brother Rice class of 1994. . And I appreciate you taking to the time to read what I have to say, feel free to email charles.w.johnson@hotmail.com

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