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CPS Says It Will Protect 100-Year-Old Murals At Closing School

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CHICAGO (CBS) – Parents at an Andersonville elementary school slated to close this summer said Chicago Public Schools officials have added insult to injury, with plans to dismantle some historic murals before school is even out.

CPS officials dispute the claim.

“They’re actually very priceless pieces of art,” said Alison Burke, a local school council member and parent at Trumbull Elementary School, at 5200 N. Ashland Ave.

Burke said she is concerned about the fate of three murals – two visible and one covered by a school sign. CBS 2′s Chris Martinez reports the artwork dates back 100 years.

Heather Becker, CEO of the Conservation Center, authored the book “Art for the People,” documenting CPS’s mural collection, many of which were painted through the Great Depression-era Work Projects Administration.

The Trumbull artwork dates back even longer to the Progressive Era.

“Many of the Progressive Era murals were painted by students that came out of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago,” Becker said. “There was a hub of muralists here, and the level and scale of the collection is quite exceptional.”

In all, CPS has 437 murals at 68 schools.

Burke said Trumbull has been informed by CPS that it will begin dismantling the murals at Trumbull now, more than two weeks before students have left the building.

“It just seems so sad to make them watch the school that they love being dismantled and pillaged for things before they’re gone,” she said. “It’s cold, it’s callous.”

In a written statement, CPS said the murals will not be removed until the end of the school year. They’ll be put in protective storage until they find a new public home, most likely another school.

CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll attributes the controversy to a misunderstanding.