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School Closing Protests: Chicago Teachers Union Plans Marches As School Board Preps Crucial Vote

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The Chicago Teachers Union is planning a massive round of weekend protests at each of the schools, including Stewart Elementary in Uptown, pictured, slated for closing. (DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel)
The Chicago Teachers Union is planning a massive round of weekend protests at each of the schools, including Stewart Elementary in Uptown, pictured, slated for closing. (DNAinfo/Adeshina Emmanuel)

With a little more than a week left before the Chicago Board of Education votes on proposals to close 54 Chicago public schools and co-locate 11 more, the Chicago Teachers Union is planning a massive protest against what they call Mayor Rahm Emanuel's "assault on working-class people."

Billed as the "mother of all marches" according to CBS Chicago, the three-day protest will have marches to each of the schools targeted for closure on May 18, 19 and 20. The march will culminate Monday downtown.

The CTU plans to lobby state lawmakers to do whatever they can to halt the closures, according to WGN. The union has also threatened a lawsuit should the district carry out their massive closure plan.

Responding to CTU's announcement, the Tribune reports CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll said in a statement the district "is determined to upend the status quo that threatens to keep another generation of our children trapped in under-resourced, underutilized schools where they are not getting the quality education they deserve."

A sliver hope had momentarily emerged for more than a dozen schools after independent hearing officers advised CPS to remove 14 schools from the proposed list of closures. Despite the hearing officers blasting many of the district's closure plans for ignoring student safety and school performance, Catalyst Chicago reports CPS officials "largely dismissed" the hearing officers' findings, which are not binding.

Meanwhile, reports emerged this week that the Chicago Fire Department has been recruited to help police staff "safe passage" routes beginning on the first day of the school year -- August 26 -- and continuing through the three weeks that follow, according to NBC Chicago. The Fraternal Order of Police told WGN that request is a sign that the city's police force is too short-staffed for the task, though a Chicago Police Department spokesman denied that claim.

As the clock winds down on the endangered schools, Preservation Chicago has also dipped a toe into the school closure fray. The architectural preservation group that issues a yearly list of the city's "most endangered" buildings wants to protect historic school buildings facing closure, though their immediate concern is for the building and not its occupants.

DNAinfo Chicago reports that Preservation Chicago has noted many of the endangered schools are "architecturally significant," and should at least be spared from the wrecking ball if not shuttering. Other community members have expressed suspicion since schools like Graeme Stewart Elementary sit on prime real estate in developing neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Ald. Howard Brookins (21st), who chairs the City Council’s Black Caucus, is demanding that Emanuel heed the hearing officers' recommendations and keep the recommended schools open, the Sun-Times reports

The mayoral-appointed school board will vote on the closures at their May 22 meeting. If approved, CPS's plan will be the largest-ever restructuring of a major urban school district.

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