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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Safety plans for closings outlined
CPS officials unveiled what they called a "comprehensive" safety plan to address concerns that closing schools will put students in danger. Much of what they outlined--from community members patroling the routes to and from school to social emotional programs at welcoming schools--have been offered before at welcoming schools.
The newest part of the plan was that at least one security guard from the closing school would follow the students to the welcoming school. "They will be able to see a familiar face," said Jadine Chou, the district’s chief safety and security officer.
Chou and CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett would not put a pricetag on any of the extras they promised to welcoming schools, saying that they had to wait til they had a final list of schools and did an assessment of what is needed.
Chou and Byrd-Bennett said they got many of their ideas from the community engagement process that took place this winter. CPS held 28 community meetings in February. Byrd-Bennett didn't attend any of the meetings, but she said she read the transcripts. What she took from them was that "everybody got that we need to close school."
“One of those things we heard frequently at the community meetings was parents just need peace of mind to make sure their children are able to travel safely,” Chou said.
Chou said CPS officials paid special attention to specific problem areas pointed out to community members and parents and they will be going back to these people once the final list is announced. Each welcoming school will have a unique plan.
But the following are some of the things that CPS will provide:
*Social-emotional supports like coping skills and conflict resolution training, as well as student “buddies” for children whose schools have closed
*Community-building activities for students and families.
*Extra technology like security cameras
*Money for security guards from closed schools to work at receiving schools for at least a year.
The announcement came just a day after CPS began looking for moving companies to help with closings.