Chicago’s board of education voted Wednesday to shutter 50 schools, the largest number of schools closed at one time by any major U.S. city.
The board, appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D), opted to close 49 elementary schools and one high school after the current school year ends. It decided to keep open four additional schools that had been recommended for closure by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.
The decision came amid vocal protests from the Chicago Teachers Union, parents and some Chicago aldermen, who said they were concerned that the closings will tear apart neighborhood fabric, disrupt families and force children to cross gang turfs to attend other schools.
The country’s third largest school system, Chicago is facing a $1 billion budget shortfall. Declining enrollments have led to inefficient, half-empty schools where too much money has to be directed to maintenance and operations instead of classroom activities, officials said.