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Mitchell: Old neighborhood school is now neighborhood nuisance


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Two years after the controversial school closings, residents living near shuttered buildings are suffering the consequences.

Although CPS came up with plans to repurpose a few of the empty buildings, closed schools in struggling neighborhoods have turned into giant eyesores.

“This area is where children got out at 2:30 p.m., and you heard the bell ring. You watched them go home and you watched them go back to school,” said Gail Pullen, 48.

She lives with her elderly parents in a two-story greystone across the street from Melody Elementary School in West Garfield Park.

“Now it’s just over there. It’s been vandalized and everything of value has been taken out of it,” she said.

OPINION


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Genevieve Melody Public School at 412 S. Keeler is surrounded by older residential homes. Most of the people living in the neighborhood are either elderly or inherited their property when a parent passed away.

Nowhere does the ugly side of neighborhood disinvestment show more than at the school’s boarded up front door.

Thus far, there’s no indication of what will replace Melody Elementary School, and neighbors are growing impatient.

Pullen was so ticked off by the response she said she got when she called her alderman about the towering weeds covering the fencing around the parking lot that she called me.

Both her parents are dealing with a cancer diagnosis, which means multiple doctors’ appointments. Pulling in and out of the driveway into the alley abutting the school’s parking lot has become dangerous, Pullen told me.

“When they closed Melody, they must have decided they weren’t going to keep it up,” she said.

Residents complain weeds around a parking lot adjacent to the shuttered Melody Elementary School, 412 S. Keeler, pose a safety threat. | Mary Mitchell/Sun-Times

Residents complain weeds around a parking lot adjacent to the shuttered Melody Elementary School, 412 S. Keeler, pose a safety threat. | Mary Mitchell/Sun-Times

The neighborhood was already dealing with crime associated with overgrown vacant lots that serve as good places to stash drugs and guns.

“We’ve got a lot of single women going in and out of their homes. Even my parents might go out. What if somebody decides they are going to hide in those weeds?” she asked.

Pullen said she called Ald. Jason Ervin’s (28th) office to complain about the tall weeds surrounding the closed school’s parking lot and was told by a staffer the weeds are not a “priority.”

“I didn’t even get to talk to the alderman. Nobody should have to be fearful, but apparently the alderman’s office doesn’t care,” she said.

Ald. Ervin did not return my phone calls about this issue.

Residents complain weeds around a parking lot adjacent to the shuttered Melody Elementary School, 412 S. Keeler, pose a safety threat. | Mary Mitchell/Sun-Times

Residents complain weeds around a parking lot adjacent to the shuttered Melody Elementary School, 412 S. Keeler, pose a safety threat. | Mary Mitchell/Sun-Times

Several of the shuttered school buildings were given new life by CPS for school use or as administrative offices.

Among those are Canter, 4959 S. Blackstone; Lafayette, 2714 W. Augusta Blvd.; and Dodge, 2651 W. Washington.

Some other school buildings went to the highest bidder.

Pullen said she would like to see a community center on the site.

“You would be then opening it up for jobs and a place for our babies to go. There’s a gym room over there that could be put to use. The kids at the high schools around here need to do their service hours. They could help the small children with homework and teach them to be productive citizens,” she said.

“Right now, the parking lot is open for whoever or whatever. It is not fair,” she said.


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