"Up To" 80 Schools Closed

"Up To" 80 Schools Closed

It's all about the Utilization Commission's updated estimate that CPS could close up to 80 schools and still have better-performing schools for kids at those underutilized/lower-performing schools to transfer to.  As the Sun Times points out, the closings would likely affect African-American students disproportionately (though not suprisingly).  As WBEZ points out, 16 school actions is the most CPS has ever done.  As nobody points out, the Commission isn't saying that the final number will be 80 this year.  In fact, they bring up the possibility of some sort of two-year process, which is officially off the table but I'm guessing comes back into play somehow.

CLOSINGS

CPS panel: Up to 80 schools could close Tribune: The commission settled on the number 80 not by looking at how many schools could be closed safely and efficiently, but rather by how many higher-performing schools were available to receive students from the shuttered ones.

Commission: Chicago has capacity for 80 school closings, shake-ups WBEZ: On a conference call with reporters late Wednesday, Commission chairman Frank Clark said the district has added staff just to deal with school closings. “They have an increased capability. They brought in a person very versed in logistics, a person very versed in security and safety. I’ve seen organization charts that augment this process with literally scores of people either trained or being trained.”

Committee: CPS can close or consolidate 80 schools at most Sun Times: Jeanne Marie Olson, a researcher at Northwestern University who raises questions about the CPS’ school capacity formula, said she was disappointed the commission didn’t address choices schools have to make between small class size and having art and music rooms.

Chicago School Closings List Narrowed DNAI: The commission's final report also recommended CPS take to heart plans created by communities over the last several months that focus on annex space, children with disabilities and pre-kindergarten classrooms.

SAFETY

Where Kids Go When Neighborhood Schools Close NPR: A rash of public school closings in some U.S. cities has parents and teachers reeling. School officials say the closings are needed to save money, but some argue it's a form of discrimination. Host Michel Martin talks with a Chicago reporter and a Philadelphia activist about how the closings could affect students and local communities.

Black students most likely to have their school on CPS closure list Sun Times: Nine out of ten of the Chicago Public School students potentially affected by school closings this year are black, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis has found, a discovery one community activist called a “lawsuit waiting to happen.” See map here.

Fixing Failing Schools: Revisiting Chicago's Phillips Academy WGNtv: With Chicago Public Schools preparing to release a final list of school closings, we're looking at another effort to fix failing schools. Last year, we gave you an inside look at the inner workings of a CPS turnaround. WGN's Gaynor Hall takes us back ...

PEOPLE

PGCPS Name Top 3 Candidates in Superintendent Search Patch: Following a national search that produced 10 candidates for the job, the Board of Education (BOE) whittled the pool to three people: Dr. Alvin Crawley, who has been serving PGCPS as the interim superintendent since Hite’s departure Dr. Eric J. Becoats, currently the superintendent of Durham Public Schools in Durham, NC Harrison A. Peters, the chief of schools for Chicago Public Schools in Chicago, IL.

MISC

Students at charter slated for closure ask: Why? WBEZ: It’s the day after the Chicago Board of Education voted to shut down the South Side charter school, in a rare four-to-two vote. Board members Mahalia Hines and Andrea Zopp voted against the closure.

Schools Group Vents Concerns Hyde Park Herald: There is so much politics involved and parents have no voice,” she said. “My kids go to Carnegie and even with the extended school day there’s no art, music, P.E. and the kids can’t go outside to play.

CPS Represented in Idol’s Top 20 CPS: Rickover Naval Academy senior Devin Velez vying to be the next American Idol

Comments

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  • New CPS Policy says 40 students per classroom. -- "You could have a teacher that is high-quality that could take 40 kids in a class and help them succeed," Communications Director Becky Carroll.

  • Forty in a class? Oh sheeeeh. A highly qualified teacher could help them succeed? Who's going to help the highly qualified teacher?

  • The other issue is space. Some classrooms are quite small and crowded. I wonder if CPS utilization policy actually takes into consideration the reality on the ground, the age ... and therefore the size ... of the students and whether or not there are likely to be other adults in the classroom. Sometimes it's difficult to even turn around in a classroom much less to do any of the activities that require extra materials (such as in science) or space.

    Another issue is whether or not the classroom has an experienced teacher at the helm. 40 students for a rookie TFA teacher. Really?

  • As an experienced and dedicated teacher, my students and I both do not want 40 students in our classroom, it too tight with 32. Look at new and newer CPS schools —the special education classrooms are meant for no more than 15-20 students, so will these classrooms sit empty since 40 students will not fit and 20 students cannot be in a classroom alone?

  • This was an interesting comment left over at catalyst:

    Rod Estvan wrote 19 hours 17 min ago
    On the report itself

    I have now had the time to reasonably carefully read all 45 pages of the Final Report of the Commission on School Utilization. From having talked with several reporters today I discovered that the report was released to the media in the very late afternoon and an opportunity was then given to the media to ask questions of Mr. Clark within about a half hour after its release. I think that was unfortunate because it is very unlikely the reporters could have digested this report in such a short amount of time.

    The special education section of the final report is a vast improvement on the Interim Report the Commission issued on January 10. The Commission admits in this section (pages 12-14) that the basic mythology CPS used when measuring schools with significant numbers of students with disabilities that also had cluster programs was flawed. The Commission states: "Properly inventorying the space used by special education classrooms could change the utilization status of an indeterminate number of schools."

    First off Access Living, the organization I work for, provided written comments to the Commission on January 23 and we are glad the Commission came to a conclusion similar to the one we reached in regards to the utilization measurement system CPS applied to special education programs in schools deemed as under enrolled. We are not glad that the Commission did not make or attempt to make any determination of the impact of this technical flaw in CPS' approach on any of the 129 school deemed under utilized by CPS. We believe that such an analysis could have been undertaken if the Commission chose to do so. We feel not doing so was an abrogation of the mission the Commission was assigned to complete.

    Access Living as an organization fully shares with the Commission members their reservations and concerns for students with disabilities in the closing process. We also appreciate the fact that the Commission recognized that there are ADA physical accessibility issues relating to the closing process. We hope CPS takes to heart the Commission's concerns in this area.

    Exactly how the Commission came to the conclusion that "CPS has the capacity to carry out approximately 80 consolidations, and other school actions such as turnarounds and co-locations" is to a degree somewhat obscure in the report. But we believe that a close reading indicates that the report assumes elementary school students can travel up to 1.5 miles to their new school and that we believe is very questionable. Our city is approximately 234 square miles in total area with 6.9 sq miles of it being water. Effectively the Commission believes it is theoretically possible for elementary school aged children to travel up .66% of the land mass of the city in order to go to school each day, without any clear legal entitlement to busing unless they have a disability related basis for it. 105 ILCS 5/29-2 allows any school district in the state to charge students for busing up to 1.5 miles of their home, 105 ILCS 5/29-1 allows any school district not to provide busing for non-disabled students at the district's determination.

    The Commission discussed in the report how CPS could link up with the CTA or it could provide busing to students in certain situations that do not have a clear legal entitlement to it. We think that this thinking cuts against the cost savings rational of school closings to begin with. So just on that basis we believe the Commission should have reduced its 80 number to the 60 number it cited (p. 17) as being within one mile of a better school supposedly with "seats." By the way seats do not equate to classrooms, and some of the disabled students will require completely separate classrooms.

    The report makes many useful suggestions for CPS to spend some pretty serious money on helping students make the transition to new schools, but it does not quantify the costs at all. These suggestions are serious and well thought out in many instances, we believe that the Commission predicated its assumptions on the capacity of CPS to carry out closures on the implementation of these suggestions. We believe that once these ideas including additional social workers, safe passage systems, a summer camp program a receiving schools to orientate students from closed school to the new schools, and other very good ideas are cost factored out they will prove to be impossible for CPS to carry out on the scale of anywhere near 80 schools. The Commission had an obligation to look at the fiscal capacity of CPS to carry out these transition suggestions and take that capacity into consideration in its report which it failed to do.

    Lastly, what to do with the empty closed buildings. The Commission throws out some nice thoughts all of which cost money, money CPS claims it does not have and other governmental entities may also not want to spend. Probably the most interesting aspect of the report was the Commission's estimate that the cost of just having an empty annex building secured and mothballed would cost $75,000 a year, the Commission does not throw out a number for a full school which must be much more (page 10). Moreover, the Commission estimates the cost of tearing down an annex and turning it into green space to be between $3.5 and $6.5 million per site, how much would it be for a full school?

    Rod Estvan

  • Cannot believe that the Chicago Tribue did not read Mr. Estvan's comments first before writing their editorial today.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    I don't know if you're being sincerely, fellow district299reader, or snarky. I can't tell. But, based on what Mr. Estavn says, I'd definitely recommend that journalists and editorial writers read and speak to him. If fact, I might even subscribe to the Tribune again if they filled their pages with such insight.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    Estvan, my mistake.

  • In reply to district299reader:

    And dang autocorrect: "sincere".

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