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CPS has no plans for school actions, but turnarounds possible

For the first time in more than a decade, Chicago Public Schools announced no plans on Monday, the state deadline, to undertake major changes to schools.

A state law, passed in 2011 after parents complained about opaque procedures CPS used to close schools, now requires CPS to inform the public of plans to shut down schools, consolidate schools or put more than one school into a single building by Dec. 1. CPS spokesman Bill McCaffrey said the district has no plans to do any of those things.

No closures were expected because CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in November 2012 that she would impose a 5-year moratorium on school closings if the Legislature would grant her a one-time extension of the deadline to consider which schools to close. In May 2013, she recommended 50 closures, the most undertaken in the United States at one time.

In October, Byrd-Bennett hinted she might consider asking schools to share a building or change school boundaries to try to alleviate overcrowding.

Not covered under this state law are school “turnarounds.” That means CPS could still name schools whose staffs will be fired in June and replaced, likely by the Academy of Urban School Leadership, a nonprofit private management company which currently operates 32 CPS schools. Last year, the district turned around three grade schools.

Earlier this year, CPS has taken steps to shut down programs at two more schools, but those actions aren’t legally considered school closings.

Hancock College Preparatory High School will no longer accept freshmen only from within its neighborhood boundary. Instead, half the incoming 9th graders will come for a career prep program from an expanded boundary; the other half will have to test-in through an application open to the whole city.

Marine Math & Science Academy High School also moved its population, principal and teachers to the campus at 1920 N. Hamlin, formerly occupied by Ames Middle School. Now serving grades seven to 12, the school is called “Marine Leadership Academy at Ames.”

The original Marine high school, which used to share a building at 245 S. Campbell with Phoenix Military Academy High School, still exists on paper with a tiny budget, according to CPS officials, though it has no students or teachers there and its principal’s office is on the Ames campus.