CPS Faces School Closings

Juan Manuel Gonzalez, Staff writer


Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has recently received flak from the mayor’s office, as well as from the Board of Education, concerning the number of schools which are considered “underutilized.” On February 13, CPS released a tentative list of schools which are “underutilized” and are under consideration for being closed. That list was shortened from an amount of 330.Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the chief of the Chicago Public Schools is expected to finalize the list and to unveil the list of schools which will be shut down at the end of March.

CPS will be hosting meetings with community members, parents, and teachers and staff of the schools on the list before making any final cuts. The schools which will be removed from the list may be impacted in other ways. The schools on the list are all located on the south, southwest and west sides of the city.

Most of the neighborhoods surrounding the schools are impoverished and have seen a huge gap in population due to the turn of the economy. According to ABC 7 News, many parents are not happy that CPS wants to close that many schools. On Wednesday February 13, CPS officials held a meeting at the Austin-North Lawndale neighborhood where parent Janice Thompson was quoted saying, “You are taking away from my kids, from our community. Our kids need their schools.”

Bennett said that there are two steps which she and her committee take in deciding whether or not to close a school.The first step is taking students’ safety into consideration. Secondly, they consider the distance the newly displaced students must travel to get to their new schools. In the Austin-North Lawndale neighborhood alone there are a total of 16 schools which are on the list,  including Mcnair Elementary, Penn Elementary and Henson Elementary. In total, there are 14 different neighborhoods where the 129 schools are located.

At this point in the process, school administrators must now begin to map out how the schools can raise their academic performances and increase their enrollment in order to be prepared to fight for the safety of their school. Many of the parents who have children attending the schools on the list as well as community leaders and the Chicago Teachers Union are calling for a stop on school closing because they feel they are being blacklisted just for new charter schools. Also on February 13, thirty aldermen signed a moratorium for the expansion of charter schools for the 2014-2015 school year. When asked, Bennett had few comments, saying that she “had not seen [the moratorium].”