CHICAGO, May 23 (UPI) -- The Chicago Board of Education has voted to shut 49 elementary schools and transfer 27,000 students to new classrooms, officials said.
Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett gave four other schools, which were scheduled for closing, a last-minute reprieve.
Wednesday's vote came after months of arguments over Mayor Rahm Emanuel's push to close dozens of schools.
The board fully supported Emanuel's vision for a downsized school system, the Chicago Tribune said, but parents and the Chicago Teachers Union, which filed lawsuits seeking to block the district's plan, objected to the policy.
Some meeting participants who spoke after the vote Wednesday had to be removed from the meeting by security, the Chicago Sun-Times said.
Emanuel released a statement Wednesday after the vote saying he recognizes that the closings are very difficult.
"I firmly believe the most important thing we can do as a city is provide the next generation with a brighter future," he said.
Emanuel's recommendation was based on declining enrollment and under-utilized school buildings.
Byrd-Bennett told the Sun-Times that the city has 145,000 fewer school-age children then it did in 2000.