In the final year of a school closing moratorium, Chicago Public Schools officials announced Friday they may shutter or consolidate schools at the request of parents, principals or “community members.”
In school action draft guidelines that had to be published by Oct. 1 under state law, district leaders said they also might phase schools out, move school attendance borders or locate two separate schools in a single building in the rapidly shrinking district. None of the guidelines differed greatly from last year’s; feedback will be collected only for 21 days via a dedicated email address: CEOGuidelines@cps.edu.
These guidelines could be used to merge Jenner Elementary School with the Ogden International School, as community members have requested, and to close two other schools, either all at once or gradually, that are slated to be replaced by new schools.
Plans to open a brand-new high school in Englewood in 2019 are already underway with CPS announcing its steering committee members earlier this week; four high schools would close in exchange.
CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson have also announced they’d like to turn National Teachers Academy into a high school for the South Loop though supporters of the high-performing elementary school continue to lobby loudly against closing it.
CPS officials must announce by Dec. 1 any actions they plan to take after school ends in June. Proposals then would then be discussed at public hearings before the school board took a vote.
The 2017-18 school year is the fifth and final year of a moratorium on closings promised in 2013 when the Board of Education appointed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel voted to shutter a record 50 neighborhood schools and programs. Those schools were closed mainly in African American neighborhoods where officials said population had dwindled.
As for co-locating two schools into a single building, CPS said it would consider how much space remains in the building according to its own space utilization standards. But those standards are out of date after CPS failed to publish them by Dec. 31, as state law also requires.
“We know there’s another round of school closings on the horizon at CPS, and CPS has used utilization as one of their main factors in closing schools,” the parent activist group Raise Your Hand wrote on its website after filing a complaint with the state attorney general. “As they continue to make plans and policies behind closed doors, we ask that CPS at least comply with the basic minimum standards of releasing data that’s required by law.”