After hearing from aldermen, angry parents and community members in a meeting interrupted several times by protesters, the Chicago Board of Education today approved a plan to close 49 elementary schools and one high school program.
The board voted 4-2 to close Von Humboldt Elementary, then unanimously approved the rest of the closings in a single vote.
Before that, the board voted 6-0 to approve a last-minute recommendation by the district to spare four elementary schools: Manierre Elementary on the Near North Side, Mahalia Jackson and Garvey on the South Side and Ericson on the West Side.
After more than two hours of public comments, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett and board members defended the plan to close the highest number of schools the city has ever shut down in a single year.
“We can no longer embrace the status quo because the status quo is not working for all Chicago school children,” Byrd-Bennett said before the vote was taken. “It is imperative that you take the difficult decision but essential steps.”
The district says it needs to close schools to address a looming $1 billion deficit and declining enrollment.
Board President David Vitale, in his remarks before the vote, said that while closing schools is difficult “ultimately it is our responsibility to choose.”
“Today’s reality requires change,” he said.