Students from the Humboldt Park area headed to Jose De Diego Elementary Community Academy, 1313 N. Claremont Ave., to begin this school year the week of Aug. 26. For these Chicago Public School students and their parents, many originally from the now closed Lafayette Elementary School and Von Humboldt Elementary, the week was a lesson in adapting to new surroundings while also dealing with 90-plus-degree temperatures.
“It’s been a total chaos,” said Patricia L. Moore, a grandmother that takes her grandson to first grade at De Diego. Her grandson has been enrolled at De Diego since preschool and she said that the new parents were not given any information on the school’s policies, like how they’re not allowed to drop off their child at the classroom but instead at the front door to the school.
“The new parents that are here, they don’t know the rules. And with this heat, it’s just led to a lot of people getting angry with the process,” said Moore. “And with all these new kids, they’ve been moving the kids around the building’s rooms trying to figure out how all these new students are all supposed to fit.” She added that her biggest fear with all this chaos is not being able to find her grandson at the end of the school day.
Previously, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said that schools such as Von Humboldt should close because it only had 362 children enrolled in a building that the district says should hold 900 students. After the school’s closing was announced, CPS recommended De Diego as an option for the displaced students.
CPS began the 2013 academic year with 47 fewer elementary schools and one less high school program. The total number of school closings will impact 12,700 of the 403,000 students enrolled in CPS. Over the summer, CPS laid off more than 3,000 employees also. Half of those were teachers. CPS says these laid-off teachers will be the first considered for the 1,000 vacant teaching positions within CPS.
This year, there will be about 600 yellow-vested “Safe Passage” workers hired to get kids whose schools were closed to their new schools safely. Angelo Castillo, a graduate of Von Humboldt in 1984 and who also worked as a security officer in Humboldt Park, helped draft the “Safe Passage” route to get his kids to De Diego.
Previously Castillo told CPS and the Chicago Police that Hirsch Street is the only way to go to and from the school for students because other streets and the eastern side of Western Avenue have gang activity.
“We have a free van service for kids enrolled in the Boys and Girls Club,” said Hector Perez, senior director for the Union League Boys & Girls Club at 1214 N. Washtenaw Ave. “Right now we have two vans and are looking to expand it to three. We pick up the kids after school and take them to the Boys and Girls Club, where they can do homework and participate in afterschool activities until around 6 p.m.”
“Von Humboldt didn’t have any kind of air conditioning,” said Perez, adding that he was glad that on sweltering days like today De Diego had fully functioning air conditioning for the building. He said that his children originally went to Von Humboldt and that while the change has not been without hiccups, De Diego is a much better school on the whole. The van service was set up because even though CPS and the police have set up safe passage routes, he and other parents are still concerned about students walking the longer distance to get to De Diego from home and back.
This post is also available in: Spanish
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