Altgeld, Wentworth elementary schools prepare for merge - FOX 32 News Chicago

Altgeld, Wentworth elementary schools prepare for merge

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Tuesday is decision day on the plan to shut down or merge dozens of Chicago schools and nearly every school that would be affected by the plan has its own issues with what's being proposed.

In Englewood, Altgeld Elementary is shutting down, but staying open. Wentworth Elementary is moving there and taking over, making everyone unhappy about something.

Wentworth Principal Dina Everage will keep her job, faculty, staff and students, but not the 100-year-old building she's been building into a place of inspiration for two years.

"It absolutely does validate the work that we've done," says Everage. "We still have a lot of work to do, and just excited to have the opportunity to continue our work. A lot of the murals that have been created and are in place, are actually going to be moved with us."

Moved about 8 blocks away, to another underutilized school, Altgeld Elementary becomes Wentworth elementary. Everybody is getting nearly 400 new classmates.

"They're writing letters to each other, Skyping with one another, so we've already planned as joint transition teams, to craft ways for them to begin to know each other," Everage says.

"This is the school I grew up at," says Shirley Arnold, the grandmother of an Altgeld student. "This is John P. Altgeld. It's not gonna be Wentworth to us!"

"So, I don't know why they transitioning over, they bringing a new school over here for what? What they think, it's gonna make the school better?" asks another Altgeld mom.

Altgeld parents are up in arms, especially since the current test scores at Wentworth are not higher across the board, but unlike Altgeld, Wentworth students have been on a tear in the right direction.

The adults at Wentworth are glad to have a sure job for next year, but this is still upheaval.

"I've been a teacher here for 27 years," math teacher Diane Murphy says. "And I was a student here from kindergarten through 8th grade, so I've been here just about all of my life.

"We're gonna do a great job wherever we are, but this just feels like home," long time staffer Zelda Brooks adds.

Since Brooks lives here, FOX 32's Robin Robinson decided to "walk the walk" with her. The blocks may look the same to us, but where you don't know could kill you.

"We got five different gangs, from here, when you cross Racine it's another gang, when you crossing may, it's another gang, when you hit Loomis it's another gang. When you hit Bishop, there's another," says Shirley Arnold.

By the time students get here, forget being frightened, they'll be tired. It took a half an hour to get from 69th and Sangamon, to 71st and Loomis. Transportation is definitely going to be an issue.

Another issue is that Wentworth loses a great next door neighbor: a beautiful new Salvation Army center offering students activities and services for free.

The plan claims to address schools in crisis. CPS promising the money it saves will save the district and give the schools the resources they need to stop the epidemic of failure.

"A lot of the social workers or the providers show up and right in the midst of a crisis in school," says Principal Everage. "So I think when you look at what the outcome is promised to be, then that allows you to not choose sides, but to choose children."

School leaders at Altgeld declined to talk to us. They are still fighting very hard against this plan. We're hearing this might be another case where we see the mayor and CPS back down -- the safey issue being key.

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