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CPS seeks to shut down four charter schools in June

Chicago Public Schools is moving to close four underperforming South Side charter schools in June and is encouraging parents of students to find new schools.

CPS said Thursday they’ll shut down Amandla Charter High School, 6800 S. Stewart; Betty Shabazz – Barbara A. Sizemore Academy Elementary School, 6936 S. Hermitage; CICS – Larry Hawkins High School, 801 E. 133rd Place; and Bronzeville Lighthouse Charter Elementary School, 8 W. Root Street.

CPS is revoking the charters of all but Bronzeville Lighthouse, which is about to expire and won’t be renewed.

“The proposed closures announced today were made to ensure better outcomes for students, and signal to charters not performing well, that they need to either improve or pack their bags because they will not be able to operate in Chicago,” CEO Forrest Claypool said in a press release.

All four schools have a student population that’s more than 95 percent African-American and at least 84 percent poor, according to CPS data.

All four had been warned about their poor performance. But CPS said the schools didn’t implement remediation plans or improve academic outcomes of students at Amandla, Sizemore and Hawkins since last year. And Bronzeville Lighthouse still holds CPS’ lowest rating: Level 3.

All four closures will need Board of Education approval; votes are expected to be taken by the end of the year. No formal public hearings are planned, according to CPS.

The district, which still has a $480 million hole in its current operating budget, recently approved two new charter campuses. As it put them forward, it announced tougher standards for all charter schools.

Amandla has vowed to fight.

“While the CPS Press Release characterizes Amandla as chronically underperforming, in February of 2013, the charter renewal team at CPS commended Amandla’s strong track record of academic performance saying, ‘Amandla has consistently outperformed comparison schools,’” spokeswoman Amanda Nickow said in an email, adding that the charter’s board hired a new CEO in June.

“Our students, families, and staff have already begun to mobilize in an effort to influence the Board of Education to reject the recommendation to close Amandla, including a student-led social media campaign utilizing #SaveAmandla,” she continued.

CICS’ interim CEO Mike Bower said that the news on closing Hawkins, a seventh- to 12th-grade school, “comes at a time when CICS’ established process for assessing the performance of all our campuses is already underway.

“We are conducting our assessment of Hawkins’ performance in a careful and deliberate manner. We are following our established process and considering first what is in the best interest of our students — including what practical alternatives and options are available to them,” he added. “Only after that process is complete will the CICS Board be able to decide what it believes is in the best interests of Hawkins students and families. We understand that these kinds of decisions have a major effect on the lives of the students and families we serve — and we have the obligation to consider all possible options.”

CPS has closed just two charter schools since 2011 — including another Betty Shabazz campus — DuSable. Catalyst Howland charter school also volunteered to close for poor performance.

Families looking for new district-run schools for their children can call (773) 553-2060. Applications for open-enrollment schools are being accepted through Dec. 11. Those looking for new charter options should call (773) 553-1530.

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools also is offering help.

“Quality and accountability are at the very heart of the charter movement, and we remain steadfastly committed to those ideals,” spokesman Jelani McEwen said in a statement. “We have an equal obligation to ensure that any students affected by closures have access to high-quality public schools, charter or otherwise. We will work with the schools and families impacted by these closings to guarantee that each student receives the excellent education they deserve.”