CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — A loud and divided crowd sounded off Wednesday night at the first of two public meetings on the Chicago Board of Education’s plan to build a new $85 million Englewood community high school.

Parents, students, and teachers were invited to weigh in at two public meetings on the plan for an $85 million high school to open in 2019. It would replace Hope, Harper, Robeson, and TEAM Englewood high schools; but the new school is not expected to be ready for a year after the board closes the four schools the new school is set to replace.

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The district has said all four schools are under-enrolled, and the money saved by closing them will be used to finance the new school.

The first public meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday at Kennedy-King College, turned into a shouting match and arguments escalated. The CPS moderator asked repeatedly for patience, but neither side showed much. WBBM’s Bob Roberts reports.

“I would like to ask that we be respectful of each speaker,” he said.

A two-hour public meeting on the Chicago school board’s plan to replace four high schools in Englewood with one new $85-million school degenerated at times into a shouting match. (WBBM/Bob Roberts)

Students asked why they had to be shipped off to other schools during the 2018-19 school year instead of remaining in their existing schools.

“I’m here today because y’all shouldn’t be closing down our schools,” said Harper student Ashley Rodriguez. “Y’all have $85 million to put into a new school. Y’all should be putting that into our (existing) schools. Give us more academics and more for us students to do.”

Other opponents said redrawing attendance lines would place students in dangerous conditions.

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Supporters said students could learn more at a new school and said a new building could evoke pride.

“They (the existing buildings) don’t have basic general science. They don’t have math. And yet, they want to aspire to be an astronaut. We need to give them a brighter future,” said C.J. Pruitt, who described herself as a mother of six.

Under the plan, students from Harper, Robeson, TEAM Englewood and Hope College Prep would be transferred to other schools during the 2018-19 school year. The new Englewood High School would be built on the site of Robeson and would open in September 2019.

The meeting effectively ended after former Ald. Bob Fioretti, an opponent of the new school plans, tried to make a point.

“Whatever we say here doesn’t really matter,” he said. “It’s already made up.”

He tried to make the point that six of the 50 schools that were closed in the last round of closings despite community support and signs of academic progress, but was drowned out by the crowd.

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The second public meeting is scheduled for the evening of Jan. 17 at the Hamilton Park fieldhouse. The Board of Education is expected to vote on the plan at its February meeting.