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Sunny news for staff, parents at schools taken off closing list

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Updated: May 22, 2013 9:49AM



Despite dreary skies and occasional downpours Wednesday morning, the mood was bright and sunny at two schools spared from the CPS closing list.

“Beautiful news!” said Anthony Woods, who has worked as part of the support staff at Marcus Garvey Elementary School for eight years. “One of the best feelings I’ve had in a long time. It’s so good for this community and this school ... to be a part of something really special for this neighborhood.”

As the Chicago Sun-Times reported Tuesday, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is expected to withdraw her recommendations to shutter Garvey, at 10309 S. Morgan in the Washington Heights neighborhood, and three other schools when the Board of Education meets Wednesday to vote on school closures.

“We’re happy we were finally able to let everyone in the city of Chicago know we are not under-utilized. We were under-recognized,” Callie Crump, a Garvey teacher in her second year. “It’s unbelievable.”

Crump said she learned her school would be spared Tuesday night.

“My phone started ringing off the hook,” Crump said. “It’s just beyond words right now. I’m very excited.”

Byrd-Bennett is also expected to spare Mahalia Jackson Elementary School on the South Side; Leif Ericson Elementary Scholastic Academy on the West Side, and George Manierre Elementary School on the Near North Side, according to a source familiar with her deliberations.

She will postpone the closing of Miriam G. Canter Middle School until June 2014 and let Clara Barton Elementary School improve itself instead of firing its staff and turning it over to the Academy for Urban School Leadership, the source said.

If the board approves all of Byrd-Bennett’s remaining recommendations Wednesday, a maximum of 50 schools could close in June.

The source said Byrd-Bennett recognized Garvey as a model for social-emotional learning in the district, applauded for helping children develop empathy and problem-solving skills. And the Washington Heights neighborhood school had an unprecedented amount of community support during the closing process.

Crystal Cook, president of Garvey’s Local School Council applauded parents for their support.

“We put up a big fight and it paid off,” said Cook, who has four kids at Garvey. “I got all my parents together and we made it. Thank God.”

Dawn Storey, who has one son in sixth grade, agreed.

“This is an excellent school. It really helps the children. It’s really family-oriented. So it’s really a great thing they’re keeping this school open,” she said.

Donald Williams has been working security at Garvey for 21 years. He says he’s happy kids now won’t have to travel across gang-infested streets to get to another elementary school.

“People won’t lose their jobs and kids can stay in their own safe environment,” Williams said.

For students like Kenyatta Gray, 10, that environment means a lot.

“I’ve been in a lot of schools, and this is my best school ever,” Kenyatta said. “They treat me nicely, and in my other schools kids bullied me.”

Parent Chylaneshia Simmons still couldn’t believe the news Wednesday morning.

“Is it really true we were saved? We’ve been fighting so long and so hard, and the kids have been stressed out. We’ve been worried. I’m just glad to get this great news.”

On the Near North Side, word that Manierre Elementary, 1420 N. Hudson, would remain open gave Lamont Qualls, the father of a kindergartener, “a little faith in the system.”

“It wasn’t for nothing.”

Lela Huntt, parent of a pre-kindergartener at Manierre’s Ferguson Child-Parent Center, felt relief. She had been worried about alleged Facebook threats to Manierre students if they went to nearby Jenner. Parents previously have alleged that Manierre students have been jumped by Jenner students and said that inter-school basketball games were canceled last year because of fights.

“Children shouldn’t have to go through that,” Huntt said.

Contributing: Lauren FitzPatrick



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