By Nova Safo, CNN
Follow on Twitter: @nova_safo
Chicago, Illinois (CNN) - When Chicago students return to school after summer break, they will do so in 48 fewer elementary schools. The city is closing a record number of schools to deal with a $1 billion budget shortfall.
The closures are just the latest in a string of public school closings around the country, according to Emily Dowdall of the Pew Charitable Trusts. Dowdall has been looking into the causes of public school closures:
[4:08] "And those are a decline in the school-age population, the rise in charter school enrollment, and finally, tight budgets that are forcing districts to act."
In Chicago, the schools that are being closed are in mostly African-American neighborhoods, where the recession has hit hard. Lack of jobs and rising crime have driven out many middle class families, and their school-aged kids have gone with them.
At the same time, public schools have lost even more students to charter schools, which are growing rapidly.
For Asean Johnson, a charismatic 9-year-old student who attended a protest against Chicago school closings, the fight to save his school was about keeping him and his friends safe. Many parents and students are worried about longer walks to schools farther away, in which they would have to cross dangerous gang lines:
[:41]“I’m worried about my school friends' safety. I’m worried about everybody’s safety. Because, I do not want anybody to die.”
Officials with the Chicago schools system have said that they work with police to provide safe passage routes for kids. But some have expressed skepticism as to whether the district can effectively do so.
Of the more than 10,000 students affected by school closures, the school district reports that 78% have already re-enrolled at nearby schools.
But a recent report cast doubt on those figures, suggesting the school district's numbers are inflated.
To learn more about school closures in Chicago and the rest of the country, please listen to our report above.