Potential School Closings Draw Packed House In Englewood

CHICAGO (CBS) — Hearings continue as Chicago’s public school system tries to grapple with huge deficits through school closings and consolidations.

There was no yelling or screaming during the latest utilization hearing, in Englewood, although parents, teachers and administrators expressed a series of concerns and fears. Some, such as Geri Baumgarten, a teacher for the past nine years at the Bontemps Elementary School, said schools, and educations, are being slowly starved.

“You may be amazed if you give the resources and pour the money into these schools, and get the children what they need, of the outcome you may see,” she said.

Others, such as parent Joy Johnson, expressed fears about children crossing gang lines if moved to other schools nearby.

“I’m scared I may get shot out here, so it’s not just for our children,” she said. “It’s us, too.”

Utilization hearings will continue at sites throughout the city until March 4. This is the second round of hearings, and Saturday’s hearing at Kennedy-King College is one of 28 such meetings taking place in the current round.

Closings are expected because of the decline in citywide enrollment from 548,000 in 2000 to 403,000 today. The Utilization Commission, appointed last year by CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, is expected to make its recommendations by March 31, after which there will be two community meetings and one public hearing for each recommendation before a final Board of Education vote.

The Board is trying to erase a projected $1 billion budget shortfall.

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