As CPS prepares to close a record number of schools, the fate of students and communities is in question.
Closings spark security concerns
Parents of Von Humboldt Elementary students are always welcome in the building. Principal Christ Kalamatas has even set aside a room just for them.
He wants parents of Roque De Duprey students to feel equally welcome when they move into the building at 2620 W. Hirsch St. this fall. To that end, Kalamatas has already set aside a room for De Duprey parents; parents from the two schools have already met, and an assembly is planned to bring together the two faculties.
De Duprey, a block away at 1405 N. Washtenaw Ave., is one of 10 of schools CPS is closing or consolidating this year. De Duprey will move its students, staff and faculty into the Von Humboldt building, but continue to operate as a separate school.
Six of the other schools, however, will be closed altogether and their students integrated into a receiving school, a plan that has some parents worried and teachers and students upset. Among receiving schools, however, there is little planning underway about how to accommodate the influx of new students. A few, including Von Humboldt, are focused on safety issues. Academically, however, none contacted by Catalyst had created plans for combining the two student bodies.
Here is a list of closing schools and where students will go:
- Roque de Duprey’s building is closing. Students are moving to share a building with Von Humboldt Elementary.
- Gladstone Elementary is being phased out. Kindergarten students will go to Plamondon Elementary.
- Edison Regional Gifted Center’s building is closing. Students are moving to share a building with Albany Park Multicultural Academy.
- De La Cruz Middle School is being phased out.
- Andersen Elementary School is being phased out. Kindergarten students may go to Pritzker Elementary. Other students may submit an application to stay in the building in the new LaSalle II Magnet School.
- Irving Park Middle School is closing. Students will go to Marshall Middle School.
- Carver Middle’s building is closing. Students will go to Carver Primary.
- Johns Middle Academy is closing. Students will go to the new Sir Miles Davis Academy.
- The current Miles Davis Academy is closing. Students will go to the new Sir Miles Davis Academy.
- Midway Academy is closing.
At Von Humboldt, Kalamatas has set up a school day that will ensure Von Humboldt and De Duprey students have very little contact. Von Humboldt is a West Town neighborhood school. De Duprey, opened in 1990 to relieve overcrowding in several schools, draws students from a number of different communities.
“Our children are not [necessarily] from the same neighborhood, so I’m not going to say that there’s no concern,” says Principal Gloria Roman of Roque De Duprey. “We’re just going to have to be more vigilant.”
Kalamatas agrees. Von Humboldt already has gang issues, although disruptions are minimal, he says—just a few fights and some graffiti each year.
Roque De Duprey will bring its own full-time security officer and part-time off-duty policeman. (CPS is providing additional security at all the receiving schools, according to a spokesman.) In addition, the school schedule will be designed to ensure students arrive and leave at different times. Roque De Duprey will continue its 9:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. school day, and Von Humboldt will keep its 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. schedule.
Furthermore, Kalamatas says each school will operate in a clearly defined section of the building. De Duprey’s approximately 200 students will be allotted 19 classrooms located in an area away from the close to 30 classrooms used by Von Humboldt’s 600 to 700 students. The gym, cafeteria, and library will be used by both schools, but at different times.
“We will make it very clear that students from the different schools are not to enter the other area at any time without someone from staff,” Kalamatas says.
Even though Von Humboldt and De Duprey can keep their students separate, the school leaders worry about gang rivalries. At schools where the student bodies will be combined, the fears are even greater.
Principal Jose Barillas of Marshall Middle will ramp up security this fall, when more than 350 7th- and 8th-graders from Irving Park Middle (along with incoming students from feeder schools who would have attended Irving) arrive in the fall. Gang rivalry between the Latin Kings and the Royals is already a concern at Marshall.
Carey Goldenberg, guidance counselor at Marshall Middle, says the influx of new students from Irving Park, located across the Kennedy Expressway, most likely will bring rival gangs into the building. But Hilda Hernandez, a veteran security guard at Marshall Middle, recognizes the potential for friction but says the school maintains control over students: A dress code limits students to blue bottoms and white tops, all students pass through a metal detector, security cameras monitor hallways and security and staff keep a watchful eye for any gang-related expression. Throughout the day, students are dismissed at intervals to reduce any threat of violence between rival gang members.
Like the other schools, Marshall Middle has been promised additional security staff, but CPS has not yet told them how many.
“When they [students] see the police officer, they stop. But once the police are gone, they start fighting again,” Barillas says, noting the difficulty of maintaining order outside the school.
But 8th-grade teacher Caroline Ansani, who has worked at Marshall Middle for more than 10 years, is excited about the consolidation. “Schools shouldn’t be static, they should be dynamic,” she says. As a teacher, she doesn’t expect any academic setbacks for students from either school, both of which have seen their scores inching up: Irving Park Middle’s overall Illinois Standard Achievement Test scores increased from 70 percent to 74 percent last year, and Marshall Middle’s increased from 67 percent to 71 percent.
Ansani also looks forward to collaborating with teachers from Irving Park, who may follow their students to the new building so that class sizes remain stable. “Change is not necessarily bad,” she says.
Carver Primary Principal Katherine Tobias also is excited about the planned consolidation of her school with its next-door neighbor, Carver Middle, which will close in the fall.
“Those students came from here,” Tobias says. “We see each other all the time because we’re located side by side and have had activities together all along.”
Tobias will host open houses to welcome Carver Middle students and their parents.
Some students have a less certain future. Students at Midway Academy, a school that was created specifically to take in students whose neighborhood school is overcrowded, don’t know where they will go to school next year. The plan calls for the students to return to their neighborhood schools—the same ones that were unable to house them earlier.
“My daughter is crying because she is confused,” says Nilsa Nieves, parent of 10-year-old Alondra. “I don’t know where she will be going for 5th grade, and I’m worried because the kids will be out of this area and it won’t be safe for them.”
Seventh-grade teacher Jennifer Giffey says Midway Academy doesn’t have the discipline problems common to other district schools. “They’re afraid of going to schools with gang issues and fighting.”
Furthermore, Giffey says, students who change schools suffer academically. “Some of these kids are going to fall through the cracks.”
E-mail Jennifer Crespo at email@example.com.