The historic closing of 49 elementary schools in Chicago left many parents bitter and feeling left out as they try to get involved in new schools. Yet parent engagement is essential for school improvement, and principals are faced with the challenge of building trust at schools that scored poorly on surveys of parent involvement.
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School closing list pared down
Now, 129 elementary schools are on the possible closure list.
Late Wednesday afternoon, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced that she has officially shaved the list by agreeing to some of the recommendations of the Commission on School Utilization and taking heed of the feedback at community meetings.
She used nine criteria to remove schools, including ones that are high-achieving, have more than 600 students and are more than a mile from another school that can accept them.
Eight of the 129 schools have been turnarounds in previous years, a process in which the principal and most of the staff are replaced and the school receives a significant financial investment. Six of them are run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership, a not-for-profit that has done much of the turnaround work.
The communities that stand to be hardest hit are the same predominantly-black neighborhoods that have experienced the bulk of prior closings. Englewood has 19 schools still on the list, Grand Boulevard has 15 and the Far South Side and West Humboldt Park each have 14.
Initially, CPS officials said that all underutilized schools were in danger of being closed and they identified 330 as underutilized.
“This will alleviate the tension the tension for 200 schools,” Byrd-Bennett said.
The new list is the last before Byrd-Bennett publishes her final closing recommendations to be voted on by the Board of Education. By state law, she must do this before March 31. Byrd-Bennett insisted again on Wednesday that she does not know how many schools will be on the final proposed list.
A second round of community hearings is starting Wednesday night in a church in Austin. Austin has seven schools still on the list and North Lawndale, which is in the same network, has nine.
Byrd-Bennett said she now will be looking for the parents, school staff and community members to explain to her why the remaining schools are in the predicament they are in—underutilized and low-achieving. She would like to hear about issues of school leadership, teacher turnover and professional development.
“I want to know, how do they expect to address these issues?” Byrd-Bennett said. “I do not want to be interpreted as saying they are at fault. I just want them to explain their current situation.”
Byrd-Bennett said she also wants information on the dangers that children from a school could be subjected to, should it close. She said she will not close a school if she believes there are safety issues.
However, she disagreed with the not on that the criteria for determining the final list will be subjective. Byrd-Bennett said she is using “stacks of data” to make her final decision.
HOW SCHOOLS WERE REMOVED
Most of the reasons used to whittle down the list, Byrd-Bennett had already agreed to, such as not closing high schools or high-achieving elementary schools. But she reiterated Wednesday that, if schools in those categories are in disrepair, she still might relocate or close them.
The Commission on School Utilization also recommended that Byrd-Bennett remove schools that have more than 600 students, those that are close to their capacity and those that are trending upward. Byrd-Bennett also accepted these recommendations and she had her staff work on definitions for “trending upward” and “close to efficiency.”
Adam Anderson, chief of the office of portfolio, planning and strategy, said that additional criteria were added specifically because of what people said during community meetings. Many told CPS officials that their schools were far from other schools. Others said nearby schools were at capacity.
“What we said is that if you are isolated by more than a mile or [there is] no school nearby had space, we want to give parents assurance that we will not close that school,” he said.
Anderson and Byrd-Bennett also insisted that students from closed schools will be given the option to enroll in a higher-performing school.
|School Name||Geographic Area|
|JACKSON, M||Auburn Gresham|
|GRAHAM||Bridgeport - Chinatown|
|MCCLELLAN||Bridgeport - Chinatown|
|LAWRENCE||Far East Side|
|ALDRIDGE||Far South Side|
|CARVER , G||Far South Side|
|GOMPERS||Far South Side|
|METCALFE||Far South Side|
|OWENS||Far South Side|
|PULLMAN||Far South Side|
|SONGHAI||Far South Side|
|WEST PULLMAN||Far South Side|
|WHISTLER||Far South Side|
|FERNWOOD||Far South Side|
|GARVEY||Far South Side|
|HUGHES, L||Far South Side|
|KOHN||Far South Side|
|SHOOP||Far South Side|
|BEIDLER||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|BETHUNE||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|CALHOUN||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|DELANO||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|ERICSON||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|GARFIELD PARK||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|GOLDBLATT||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|MARCONI||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|MELODY||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|PICCOLO||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|RYERSON||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|TILTON||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|WARD, L||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|WEBSTER||Garfield - West Humboldt|
|VON HUMBOLDT||Humboldt Park|
|NEAR NORTH||Near North|
|BROWN, W||Near West|
|HUGHES, C||North Lawndale|
|JUNGMAN||Pilsen - Little Village|
|PADEREWSKI||Pilsen - Little Village|
|PILSEN||Pilsen - Little Village|
|NEW SULLIVAN||South Shore|
|DUMAS TECH ACAD||Woodlawn|