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School closing protesters take their pleas to mayor’s house

Multiple organizations protested on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, over the possible closing of five Chicago Public Schools. The march started at Lake View High School and ended with a rally outside Mayor Emanuel's house. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

A few hundred opponents of school closings on Monday took their pleas to keep five South Side schools open to the North Side home of the mayor, saying the closures at the African-American schools would surely cost him his job.

Englewood’s four open-enrollment high schools are slated to close, and the top-rated National Teachers Academy elementary school will gradually turn into a high school, if the Board of Education votes on the proposals as expected next week.

CPS seeks to close Robeson High School in June so construction of a new $85 million high school can be built on its campus, but will leave Harper, Hope and Team Englewood open for three more years to let current students graduate. CPS said enrollment has fallen perilously low at all four schools, affecting each school’s ability to provide a well-rounded education.

As marchers from the affected schools, and groups like the Chicago Teachers Union, progressed up the quiet blocks of North Hermitage Street, chanting to a thumping drumline, the hashtag #RahmHatesUs began trending on Chicago Twitter and held steady afterwards.

John Hope College Preparatory High School student Miracle Boyd addresses the crowd outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house during a protest on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018, over the possible closings of five Chicago public schools. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

The hashtag referred to the mayor’s unpopularity among African-American constituents, given his history of closing 50 elementary schools at once mostly in black neighborhoods, and his plans to construct a new $95 million police academy campus on the West Side, which critics call an unnecessary expense.

Elisabeth Greer, the chair of NTA’s local school council, accused Emanuel of selling out minority families for “wealthy white voters” who want a high school in the South Loop.

“Your national reputation is being ruined over NTA and Englewood,” Greer said, pointing to the recent heckling of Emanuel in Los Angeles, and to an open letter written by Harvard students protesting his planned appearance on Tuesday.

“Good citizens in Chicago and beyond see how you are destroying the lives of black and brown children for the benefit of your wealthy white constituents,” Greer continued. “Get ready to hand over the keys to City Hall to someone else.”

Chicago Police officers stand guard outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s home during a protest on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

Ten uniformed Chicago Police officers stood on Emanuel’s front lawn. Though in town for the Presidents’ Day holiday, he was nowhere to be seen.

Asked for comment, mayoral spokesman Adam Collins pointed to a prepared statement by schools CEO Janice Jackson, assuring affected students of a “21st century education.”

“Our proposals have been improved through significant community engagement, and we must continue to work together to ensure students in Englewood and every part of our great city receive the high quality education they deserve,” it read.

Multiple organizations protested Monday, Feb. 19, 2018 over the possible closing of several Chicago public schools. The march started at Lakeview High School and ended with a rally outside Mayor Emanuel’s house. | Erin Brown/Sun-Times

But 7-year-old Maya Cicero marched with her mom in the chilly rain “cause I want to save my school. I care about my school,” she said, carrying a poster she drew.

“They have a lot of enrichment classes. I like how we get to learn about a lot of different stuff, and it’s always a really peaceful school,” the second-grader said.

Given the chance to talk to Emanuel, Maya knew immediately what she’d say: “Please don’t convert NTA into a high school.”

Contributing: Fran Spielman