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CPS to consider closing two empty schools

Marine Math and Science Academy High School at 145 S. Campbell has no students or teachers. | Sun-Times file photo

Chicago Public Schools wants to give itself permission to officially shut two schools it has vacated despite state law requiring a formal closing process and a five-year moratorium on closings promised by two of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s school chiefs.

CPS announced late Monday that it will now consider closing schools that have no students enrolled.

After years of complaints that no one had any idea why CPS targeted certain schools for closure, state law has required CPS to open up that process. It requires the district to explain its reasons for either major change each fall, announce by Dec. 1 which schools would be affected, and hold a series of public hearings before making recommendations to the Board of Education.

Former CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told state legislators she’d honor a five-year moratorium if they granted her an extension to figure out how to close schools. She ended up shuttering a record 50, saying the district couldn’t afford to support buildings that were under capacity.

Current schools chief Forrest Claypool reiterated as recently as Monday that the moratorium on school closings has not yet ended.

CPS did not name the affected schools.

The district has moved students out of the original Marine Math and Science Academy High School at 145 S. Campbell, encouraging them to move to an expanded Marine Leadership Academy at Ames, which took over Ames Middle School at 1920 N. Hamlin. CPS also stopped transferring students into Montefiore Special Elementary School for special education students until it was empty. It has kept both schools technically open on paper, without students or teachers.

District spokeswoman Emily Bittner said public hearings will be held and the final guidelines for closing schools, as well as the names of affected schools, will be published by Dec. 1. She said public input led to the district now considering closing the empty schools.