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Pickets, chanting begin long before vote on school closings

Esteban Burgowith megaphone outside Chicago Board EducatiHeadquarters continues protest against school closings which board is expected vote Wednesday May22 2013.

Esteban Burgoa with megaphone outside Chicago Board of Education Headquarters, continues the protest against school closings which the board is expected to vote on Wednesday, May,22, 2013. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Updated: May 22, 2013 1:39PM



Chanting “No school closings!” protesters made a last-ditch effort Wednesday morning to keep the Chicago Board of Education from shuttering what’s believed to be the largest number of schools in one place at one time in the country.

About 50 people picketed outside the Chicago Public School headquarters while others crowded the CPS lobby before the board’s morning meeting at which it will decide whether to accept the recommendation of CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to close up to 50 schools in June.

The chanting rose to a roar in the CPS lobby as spectators jammed in.

“How do you spell racist? CPS!” protesters chanted.

Although no arrests had been made as of 10:30 Wednesday morning, police could been seen standing by with plastic wrist ties.

As the board meeting was about to begin, about two dozen protesters headed back onto the streets and began marching through the Loop.

The fate of the 50 schools — trimmed from 54 late Tuesday — lies in the hands of the six Board of Education members, all appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel: David Vitale, Jesse Ruiz, Andrea Zopp, Henry Bienen, Mahalia Hines and Carlos Azcoitia.

For a school to close, at least four of the members must vote to approve it. The board has no tie breakers, so a 3-3 vote will end in that school remaining open, according to CPS.

Board members are expected to take a single vote on the group of schools they all agree on. Where they disagree, they will vote school by school.

Public participation for the meeting, which begins at 10:30 a.m., could last for two hours; all 60 speaking slots have long been filled, and it appeared that the vast majority are about school closings and turnarounds.

Byrd-Bennett is then expected to present her recommendations on 50 closures; 11 proposals to put multiple schools under one roof, and five — no longer six — turnarounds.

Then the board votes.



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