Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Thursday December 10th, 2015, 3:30pm

Relocation Of CPS Bus Stop Raising Concerns Among Rogers Park Parents

Rogers Park parents say they're worried about their children's safety now that the walk to their bus stop is longer after its relocation by the Chicago Public Schools district earlier this year.

Their original bus stop was located at Stephen F. Gale Elementary Community Academy, 1631 W. Jonquil Terrace. Students were reassigned this school year to a bus stop at Eugene Field Elementary School, 7019 N. Ashland Ave.

North Side parents who spoke out early Thursday morning outside Field Elementary claim the district reassigned them to the new bus stop without their input and has been unresponsive to their concerns raised after the relocation.

"We're extremely concerned about our children's safety, having to walk in the dark across busy streets through gang territory," said Rogers Park resident Tiffany Mikell, whose 10-year-old son catches the bus at Field Elementary and attends Disney Magnet Elementary School, 4140 N. Marine Dr.

"We have not heard from CPS at all. We've made several phone calls and emails and heard absolutely nothing," she said.

The bus stop was relocated this school year as part of larger consolidation of bus stops for magnet and selective enrollment students, a move that has saved the district $2.3 million, according to CPS.

"CPS has and will continue to work with parents, principals and communities to ensure students are safe as they travel to and from school," CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner said in a statement to Progress Illinois. "Earlier this year, CPS consolidated hundreds of bus stops to improve efficiencies, which meant that students travel an additional two blocks on average to reach a bus stop. As the district faces a $1.1 billion budget deficit, the consolidation of bus stops was one of many actions taken to preserve and redirect dollars to our classrooms."

Mikell said the distance to her son's bus stop has increased from less than half a mile to more than a mile. Her son leaves the house at about 5:50 a.m. in order to catch the bus at 6:30 a.m.

"It's just a scary thing for him to be walking over a mile by himself in the dark," said Mikell, who sometimes cannot walk her son to the bus stop due to scheduling conflicts with her job. "We'd like our old bus stop back. And at the very least, we'd like a response."

Jumaanee Rogers is another parent from Rogers Park that has been impacted by the bus route change. His 8-year-old stepson also attends Disney Magnet Elementary and was reassigned to the Field Elementary bus stop. As a result, his stepson has to walk about five more blocks to catch the bus.

"We get up at 4:45 in the morning to get him ready to be here by 6:30, and that's really not enough time to ... eat breakfast and prepare for school," he said.

Rogers, who brings his stepson to the bus stop each morning, is also upset because students have to wait outside for their bus at Field Elementary. At the old bus stop, students could wait inside Gale Elementary, he said.

"Here they don't even let the kids come inside," Rogers said, adding that some "children are standing outside (with) nobody watching them. Anything can happen to these children out here."

Parents React To CTU Strike Authorization Vote, Emanuel's Apology Over Laquan McDonald Case

Meanwhile, parents also weighed in on the Chicago Teachers Union's three-day strike authorization vote that kicked off Wednesday. The strike vote, which runs through Friday, comes as the union and school district remain at odds over a new labor contract to replace the one that expired June 30.

Also at issue is the possibility of CPS laying off 5,000 teachers by February if Springfield fails to come through with $480 million in pension relief for the cash-strapped school district.

"The mayor and his hand-picked CEO of schools, Forrest Claypool, are threatening 5,000 layoffs. If that happens, it's going to devastate the public schools," CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said Wednesday. "They're saying there's a half a billion dollar budget deficit. What the union is saying is we're trying to confront these problems. If that's the kind of cuts and devastation which the administration is talking about, we're going to threaten a strike in that situation."

When asked Wednesday about the union's strike authorization vote, Mayor Rahm Emanuel replied: "You're putting a lot of energy into a strike. My only request is that you put as much energy into a solution. Chicago Public Schools face a massive deficit. Put the energy toward a solution."

CTU needs approval from 75 percent of members to authorize a walkout, which could not occur until 105 days after the "fact-finding" process starts. CTU held a practice strike vote last month, garnering 97 percent approval from members. If a walkout happens, it would be the second strike staged by CTU since 2012.

Mikell and Rogers said they hope the two sides will reach an agreement to avert a potential strike.

"I know some of the teachers. They want change, and they want to do what it takes to make that change happen. But our children take the biggest hit. When teachers go on strike, our children miss education. Our children have to ... be in school throughout the summer to make those days up," he said. "I can just hope that they come to some type of conclusion so that they don't have to go there."

The possibility of a second Chicago teachers strike since 2012 is "incredibly frustrating and disheartening," Mikell added.

"As a parent, it is hard to know which side to support, because honestly all we care about is our students having a great, quality education," she said. "I guess the hope for any parent is that there's a compromise that's made that puts our kids first."

Parents also commented on Emanuel's apology made Wednesday for his handling of the Laquan McDonald case.

Rogers said Emanuel's apology is "a start," saying the mayor needs to follow up his words with meaningful Chicago police reforms.

"We have to do a lot better in the streets," Rogers stressed. "The police are supposed to serve and protect us, and it shouldn't be to the point where people are scared to call the police because they feel like instead of them trying to find out what happened with the crime, they're antagonizing, they're pressuring the people who are victims."

Mikell is among those who believe Emanuel should resign over the McDonald case.

"The apology is not enough. Rahm needs to go, and there needs to be an entire revamp of the Chicago Police Department," she said.

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