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Parents urge Emanuel to walk same school routes their kids will take

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Updated: May 4, 2013 6:24AM

“Walk the walk,” parents said Tuesday morning at a demonstration at City Hall, calling on Mayor Rahm Emanuel to try out the often dangerous routes between the schools that Chicago Public Schools officials aim to close and the schools where their children will be sent instead.

Starting Tuesday, groups of parents will walk the routes to point out problems along the way, parents said at an emotional news conference at City Hall organized by the group Raise Your Hand.

“Gangs are going to interact with our children. I don’t want to see no child harmed,” Avanette Temple said of Delano Elementary School, 3937 W. Wilcox.

If the school board approves the closing, Delano students will be joined in their current building by children from Melody Elementary, 412 S. Keeler, more than half a mile away. The school will be called Melody.

“Mayor, you said you were going to take care of our children,” Temple said, crying. “I need you to walk that walk. We have to do it, our children have to do it.”

Delano is one of the 54 school programs proposed for closure in June in a CPS effort to “right size” the district that CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett says has 100,000 more seats than children. She has said that all displaced children will end up in better schools, though a Chicago Sun-Times analysis shows that about one-third of displaced students will end up in schools that perform about the same as their current schools.

Mayoral allies also converged on City Hall to support the closings.

About a dozen members of the Business Leadership Council, an association of high-level, well-connected African-American business executives, delivered a letter to the mayor in support of the closures, which are taking place mostly at schools serving black children.

“Putting students in better-performing schools gives them an opportunity to have a better education and to pursue a much better life. For too long, children in Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed in the classroom,” said James Reynolds, CEO of Loop Capital Markers and an Emanuel appointee to the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.

“The Business Leadership Council wants to ensure that our school system effectively allocates the financial and educational resources to the affected schools and communities,” he continued.“With this plan our children will have an opportunity to achieve a high quality opportuity they need to be hired by the companies we represent and others in the Chicagoland area.”

When asked about the third of affected children who are being sent to schools that are not significantly better than closing schools, former ComEd CEO Frank Clark said the schools CEO assured him that “all kids will be going to better performing schools.”

As for parents’ safety concerns, “We cannot allow gang boundaries to dictate education policy,” said Clark, another Emanuel appointee to McPier and Byrd-Bennett’s appointee to a commission that made school-closing recommendations.

A mayoral spokeswoman later released a statement: “This decision was difficult and it was not taken lightly, but it is a necessary one that has been put off for more than a decade,” Sarah Hamilton said in an email. “We will not waver in our commitment to our children, their safety, and their access to a quality education in every neighborhood in this city.”

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