Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Board of Education voted to close 50 reportedly “underutilized” schools—49 elementary schools and one public high school—in what was the largest round of school closures to ever occur in a single American city.
The board approved the school closures of the objections of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), as well as many parents and local community activists. Earlier this week, CTU led thousands of Chicago residents in a three-day series of protests against the closures. Opponents of the closures say that they would put children at risk by uprooting them from their learning environments and, in some cases, may require that they cross gang lines in order to get to their new schools.
Protests continued throughout the Board of Education’s deliberations, both inside and outside Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters. At several points throughout the meeting, protesters were escorted outside for exhibiting unruly behavior.
Fifty-four schools were originally up for closure, but CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett withdrew her recommendation to close four of those schools the day before the Board of Education vote. CTU president Karen Lewis said sparing those four schools was “a good start, but it’s not enough.”
While the Board of Education has had its say, the legal battle may not yet be over. Some Chicago parents have filed a lawsuit alleging that the closures would violate the American with Disabilities Act and the Illinois Civil Rights Act.