CPS moves to close two charter schools, denies applications for three new ones
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Chicago Public Schools officials on Monday recommended permanently closing Urban Prep West Campus high school and Kwame Nkrumah elementary school at the end of the year, saying both “failed to provide students the quality education they deserve.”
Officials also denied applications for three new privately managed, publicly funded schools seeking to open, though all five operators can appeal to a state board that has overturned CPS’ decisions in the past.
CPS CEO Janice Jackson is asking the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday to revoke the current operating charter for Urban Prep’s campus at 1326 W. 14th Pl., citing a failure to make enough academic progress, financial concerns and observations during a visit.
Urban Prep West Campus is the second of three all-boys high schools run by Urban Prep that serve nearly all African-American students. The school, which opened in 2009, was just given a new term to operate about a year ago but only for two years, a sign of concern.
Jackson also is asking that the operating charter for Kwame Nkrumah, an African-centered elementary school for about 200 students at 314 W. 108th St., not be renewed when it expires at the end of June.
“The district’s site visits suggest that the school lacks the capacity to provide students a high-quality education,” officials said, citing financial and operational concerns as well as “failure to successfully implement a mandatory remediation plan.”
When CPS last approved the Far South Side school’s renewal in 2016, it cut Nkrumah’s term to three years from the typical five and imposed a long list of conditions.
“We believe it is in the best interest of our students to deny all new school applications this year and close the two poor performing charters who have failed to provide students the quality education they deserve,” Jackson said in a written statement.
Such privately managed schools can be closed if they get a CPS rating of Level 2, the second lowest, for two consecutive years, or sink to Level 3.
The two proposed closings leave legal room for CPS to consider opening new schools or letting existing schools expand under an unusual charter cap signed into its latest collective bargaining agreement with the Chicago Teachers Union.
And the same school board was set Wednesday to consider applications for three new charter schools, amid plummeting enrollment and finances that have improved but are by no means plentiful. But CPS administration won’t recommend any of those proposals from Kemet Leadership Academy Charter in Englewood that aimed to serve at-risk middle school boys, and two existing CPS charters looking to add a second campus: Intrinsic high school and Moving Everest elementary school.
Also approved to open,though it hasn’t yet begun accepting students is Art in Motion Charter School.
Intrinsic’s proposal was academically sound, according to CPS, but it couldn’t find space to operate in a neighborhood that wants or needs another school. The school wanted to open in the Loop but also considered the old Morton Salt plant site at 1357 N. Elston. Intrinsic had previously won the authority to open a second campus several years ago but had trouble nailing down a location.
The other two applications had deeper problems. CPS found Kemet’s proposed curriculum “incomplete and unproven” its budget and facility “not viable” and noted that “there is a lack of demonstrated leadership capacity. Among several reasons given for denying Moving Everest was its inability to serve English language learners.
A third charter, also cited in October as eligible for being shut down because of poor academic performance, was spared and will get to finish this final year on its contract. Plato Learning Academy, an elementary school at 5545 W. Harrison St. in Austin that has about 270 students, was on the closure list a year ago but won a short-lived reprise.
This year, Plato merged the two campuses it previously operated. CPS officials said the school deserves a chance to show progress under its new structure.