William H. King Elementary School is located in the East Garfield Park neighborhood.  It serves a population that is 88% low income, 13% SPED, 11% ELL, 77% African American, and 19% Latino.

“To close the school down would be a mistake all across the board. It’s a Latino, African-American combination that has worked very well, and it’s all due to the principal and faculty and staff.” —2nd Ward Alderman Bob Fioretti

King provides students with a pre-K to 8th grade education and offers full day kindergarten.  They provide tutoring and supplemental education services.  They have a drama program.  Sports programs include softball, basketball, football and track.  Despite CPS’s claims that they schools on the closing list need to be shut because they lack facilities, King has a brand new playground, a hands-on science lab, and two computer labs.

They have a myriad of after school programs and clubs including Honor Guard, choir, band, step dancing, hip hop dancing, jazz, and ballet.   For upper grade students, they have two student-centered organizations, sponsored by teachers, to encourage self esteem and high expectations, Red Rose Club and Operation Exposure.

The staff at King have found innovative ways  to fund programs for their students. King was part of a mural project through Art Forward and won a VH-1 Save the Music Grant, which provided a piano/music lab at the school. They have also won grants from the Chicago Foundation for Education which provided unique learning experiences for students. They have made a commitment with Action for Healthy Kids and won a fellowship from the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship organization which brought an edible schoolyard program to King, all of which is helping teach students about a healthier lifestyle:

“I was surprised to find so many people excited to be a part of my project! Classmates, school faculty, and parents at King Elementary all got involved. It was inspiring to see so many people from all walks of life volunteer their time and resources.” —Vivian Leung, Schweitzer Fellow and Rush University College of Medicine student

They also partner with Rush University Hospital, American Girl Company, Carylon Corp, Family Focus, Chicago Cares, The Chicago Foundation for Education,  RIF in Chicago, and PNC Bank.

Despite all this, King school remains on the closing list.  CPS has said that the school is only 44% utilized, but parents have used state data to refute these allegations.

 “First it was performance, then budget, then underutilization. Now, they’re using phrases like ‘holding our kids hostage in failing schools.’ When did the parents and teachers become terrorists? Why does CPS treat parents and teachers as if they’re some sort of evil Al-Qaeda people who hold children hostage?”—-Martin Ritter, CTU and Whitney Young LSC member

The principal confirms that no one from CPS has visited the school to physically see how the school is being utilized. Community members expressed frustration with the lack of answers that CPS has given the involved group of parents at King during an April 6th community meeting.

“CPS officials did say these community meetings would be a chance for conversation. Perhaps you should talk to them about that. This doesn’t really feel like a conversation.” —mother of four King students

Community members had many questions for CPS that went unanswered.  

“What are you trying to do? Is this a land grab? Are you really, really concerned about our children’s safety, or are you trying to gentrify the neighborhood?” —Carol Johnson, a community activist

Parents also say that they worry that it is a dangerous walk  to their designated receiving school, Jensen, and that their children will have to cross gang lines to get there.

“I don’t want my boys to walk through violence, I don’t want them to walk through the gangs.  My son is 11, and 11 is when they start their gang recruitment. I don’t want my son to have to endure that. I walk [him] to school now, and I live across the street.–Lakecha Green, King parent

There are also safety concerns about registered sex offenders along the route, and Latino parents are worried that their children will be targets because of their ethnicity.

“There’s a lot more violence on that side of the street. And our Latino population will not go into that area for fear of being jumped on,” —Stephanie Tillman, King teacher

WBEZ has made available recordings of the community meetings that took place on April 6th,  April 11th, and April 26th .

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