The walk from King Elementary to Jensen Elementary on Chicago’s West Side is 20 minutes each way—past boarded-up buildings and vacant lots.
Parent activists walked from one school to the other Tuesday morning, in an effort to bring attention to what students might experience next year when King closes and students are assigned to Jensen.
The distance between the two schools is far enough that Chicago Public Schools has said it will bus current King students to Jensen until they graduate.
But parent LaKecha Green said that plan doesn’t solve her own dilemma.
“What about my 3-year-old that has to go to school only for two hours, is there going to be a bus that’s going to pick him up and bring him back home for those two hours?” Green said as we walked along Polk Street toward Jensen.
CPS is not promising to provide busing to younger siblings and new students, and Green said she doesn’t have a car. She said she’d rather take a bus and a train with all three of her boys back to their old school, Crown Elementary. That way, she said, she’d know they’d get to school safely.
“I want to visually see them go into the school, because once they’re in there I know that they’re safe,” she said. Green lives across the street from King and volunteers at the school, something she fears she won’t be able to do somewhere else, especially without transportation.
District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the route parents walked Tuesday may not be the route that CPS and the police department designate as the Safe Passage route for students who have to walk.
CPS has committed to providing busing to nine schools because the distance between the closing and receiving schools is more than 0.8 miles. Those schools are Bethune, Bontemps, King, Overton, Lawrence, Canter, Kohn, Ericson, and Trumbull. Trumbull students going to Chappell will not have busing.
Organizers with the Raise Your Hand Coalition, Blocks Together, COFI and Save Our Neighborhood Schools, said they want Mayor Rahm Emanuel, school board members and other decision makers to “walk-the-walk” with them at other closing schools over the next couple of months.
On Tuesday, Ald. Robert Fioretti (2nd) and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) joined the walk from King to Jensen. King school is in Fioretti’s ward, while Jensen is in Ervin’s. Aldermen don’t have much say in the decision to close schools. The Board of Education will vote at the end of May.
Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.