Lafayette parents, students overtake school classroom to protest - FOX 35 News Orlando

Lafayette parents, students overtake classroom to protest closings

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Photo taken by FOX 32's Lisa Chavarria Photo taken by FOX 32's Lisa Chavarria
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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Nine Lafayette Elementary parents and students occupied a Lafayette Elementary school classroom Wednesday afternoon, staging a sit-in style protest against the school's closing.

SEE: Last day of CPS school year bittersweet for closing schools

"Closing Lafayette will kill our neighborhood and our families," says Rousemary Vega, who occupied a classroom at Lafayette Elementary. "We demand that this school stay open. We demand to keep our music programs, and our special ed program. We're not leaving until this school is saved."

31-year-old Jesus Ramos and 32-year-old Rousmary Vega were barricaded in a classroom with their children for four hours before coming out.

"The minute the kids came out they were like, 'you got to go,'" Ramos says. "They all started snatching me off the floor, dragging me out the room and they were like 'if you resist it will make it worse.'"

The Humboldt Park neighborhood school, located at 2714 W. Augusta Blvd., serves Pre-K to eighth grade students. Lafayette School, home to 442 students, focuses on fine arts and music education.

Emanuel and the Board of Education voted to close the school as one of 50 public school closures citing "underutilization," population decline, and astronomical building maintenance costs. Protesters want them to reverse the decision.

"We are at Lafayette Elementary to support the students and parents who are fighting to keep this school open," says Denise Bisley, a parent from the Von Humbolt school. "Shame on Mayor Emanuel, and the Chicago Board of Education. This is a national problem. President Obama told us change was coming, and his buddy Mayor Emanuel has changed the city - closing our clinics, our schools, and wrecking our children's futures."

In response to the Lafayette protest, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett released a statement saying, "We know this is a difficult time for some parents and students.  We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure every child in every neighborhood has access to the high quality education they deserve and that they have a smooth transition to their welcoming school.  As we end this school year, it is time for us as a city to begin the work of creating a deep and lasting change in our schools to ensure our children are on a path to a bright future."

"Lafayette is one of the schools that people were most bitter about," Chicago Teacher's Union Vice President Jesse Sharkey said, "The parents, students and staff at that school really felt as though the decision to close it was an illegitimate one, both in terms of the students but also for the people of that neighborhood but the board jammed that decision through and people are determined to be heard."

"Of course we support the sit in," Sharkey added. "That's up to their parents.  It is clear that parents have to show their kids to stand up for what they believe in and people still believe."

CPS and Emanuel propose Lafayette students be displaced to Chopin Elementary, seven blocks away. Emanuel and the Board of Education have faced severe public backlash and outcry against the school closures.

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