Chicago Announces School Closings, Consolidations Amid Ban


Even though a five-year ban was imposed on closing schools in Chicago, Chicago Public Schools will close two schools the system says have “zero student enrollment,” writes Lauren Fitzpatrick, reporting for the Chicago Sun-Times.

State law required CPS to publish significant planned changes by Tuesday, and the announcement the district released stated that it would be locating a new charter school in a struggling neighborhood’s high school building. KIPP Elementary Charter School would be occupying Orr Academy High School’s structure because enrollment in the school has decreased.

The community recommended that three small high schools on the West Side be consolidated into one and CPS acquiesced. The combination will allow the newly-formed school to offer a larger variety of classes and programs.

“Really because of student-based budgeting and fact that you had three principals in the building with less than 600 students, it doesn’t make any sense,” said Dwayne Truss, a member of the Austin Community Action Council that supports the merger.

CPS will also combine two schools managed by the nonprofit Academy of Urban School Leadership into one, and it will transfer the high school grades of John Spry Community School into a structure that houses Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy and Telpochcalli Elementary School.

Telpochcalli counselor Erin Franzinger Barrett said that moving teenagers into a space that houses two pre-K through eighth- grade schools will create a “hot mess.” The dual-language school is located in a two-story space, and Barrett said she could not imagine where high school students would be located in the tiny venue.

As it now stands, two schools that had no students because CPS steered students elsewhere will be closed. CPS insists that the new proposal does not violate the ban on closing schools. CPS CEO Forrest Claypool, however, did not announce any plans for “turnarounds,” which is a maneuver in which a school’s staff is fired and then replaced, usually by the Academy for Urban School Leadership.

The announcement of closures and consolidations was made days before the Chicago Teachers Union’s anticipated strike vote. Early in November, 97% of CTU members agreed to vote to authorize a strike if it became necessary, according to NBC 5 Chicago.

Claypool stated in September that CPS could potentially cut 5,000 teaching positions by February because of the ongoing Illinois budget deadlock. CTU President Karen Lewis said layoffs would affect almost 700 schools, which would impact between 175,000 and 300,000 students, based on how the layoffs are organized.

Claypool said in a press release:

“During the past few months, we have engaged LSCs [local school councils], parents and principals throughout the city about how to best modify schools so that they align with the needs of families and communities.”

In 2013, a five-year moratorium was placed on school closings after Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration eliminated almost 50 schools, reports Juan Perez, Jr. of the Chicago Tribune. The moratorium was in place to ease the public’s concerns about the inevitable disruptions to students. The reason the closings at these two schools do not violate the ban is because these schools had no students enrolled, a district spokeswoman said.