• Mick Dumke
  • A vacant home around the corner from John Cook elementary school, one of six in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood that could be closed

The cost-benefit analysis of closing schools isn’t always clear from the vantage point of Auburn-Gresham.

It’s a working-class neighborhood with sturdy bungalows and deeply invested residents, including cops and other city workers, many of whom have lived there for decades. But 79th Street and the surrounding residential blocks are dotted with vacant board-ups, a reminder that resources have left the community and a threat that more could follow.

Two years ago, soon after he took office, Mayor Rahm Emanuel visited the neighborhood to announce a new effort to rehab vacant properties and rent or sell them to working families. He emphasized that the stakes were high, since empty buildings attract crime and send a message that the community is in decline.