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The pain and politics of school closings 

Politics may be local, but school closings are personal.

School 44, which is due to be closed, had a group of teachers, parents, and homeowners from the 19th Ward confused and angry at a meeting of the Education Committee of the Southwest Common Council earlier this week.

Many of the school's teachers said they had only recently heard about the closing. Compounding the problem is that Superintendent Bolgen Vargas hasn't committed to a firm closing date.

There are too many school closings planned for the 19th Ward, residents said, and they are concerned about property values. School 44 would close, and even though School 16 is scheduled to re-open, the date is uncertain.

School 16's remodeling is included in the second phase of the massive schools modernization project, and legislation to fund the second phase isn't even in progress. School board member Mary Adams, who lives in the 19th Ward, said at last night's meeting that School 16 won't reopen for at least two years.

Why would parents consider buying a home in the 19th Ward, a resident asked, when they don't even know how long School 44 will be open or where their children will go when it closes?

Adams, who was the only board member to vote against closing School 44, said that State Education Department officials are firm in their demand that five city schools close for the schools modernization plan to move forward.

But she said she's concerned with a strategy that closes schools in the 19th Ward despite the high concentration of children in the area.

Adams questioned why the district would close School 44, when the school serves 590 students who mostly live in the 19th Ward. But School 23 in the Park Avenue neighborhood will undergo millions of dollars in remodeling, Adams said, even though the school has to bus kids in to fill it.

Why would parents consider buying a home in the 19th Ward, a resident asked, when they don't even know how long School 44 will be open or where their children will go when it closes?

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