40% of Displaced Chicago Students Spurn Assigned ‘Welcoming Schools’

When dozens of Chicago schools were shut down, students had to go somewhere new — and even though Chicago Public Schools stated that 80% of transferred students were enrolled in their ‘welcoming school' of choice, only about 60% ended up there. Although families were courted with promises of safe passage to school, iPads, science labs and air conditioning, the results of the transition project have officials disappointed and citizens concerned.

Linda Lutton of Chicago Public Media writes that as many as 496 grammar students from shuttered schools are simply not enrolled anywhere.

The weak re-assignment numbers raise questions about the effectiveness of the $155.7 million that the districts have invested — a financial obligation it will pay off for the next 30 years — but addressing problems with enrollment is a priority.

One school in North Lawndale provides a telling example. Just 12 students out of 196 from shuttered Henson Elementary enrolled at Charles Evans Hughes, the designated welcoming school. The remaining students have scattered to 34 different schools. Nine students left the district, and 12 are completely unaccounted for.

The goal for the district is for the students to stay in their communities because it reduces travel time for the kids, which in turn makes for a safer journey. Decreased travel time has the benefit of reducing the burden on students, which officials hope will allow them to do better with their schoolwork.

"Over time, I think that will shake out. These schools are going to be community hubs. And I think they're going to draw—like good schools do—they're going to draw kids and families back into the neighborhood schools, and that's the goal."

To the district's credit, employees have gone door to door to find the almost 500 children that remain unaccounted for. Some of the children may be beyond reach, while others might be on the "unaccounted for" list due to simple clerical errors. However, there will be a certain amount of children that will be pushed back into education due to the good work that these district officials are doing.

The fact that only 60% of students from closed schools went to their welcoming schools — which differs from CPS's claimed figure of 80% — shows that parents may be taking the initiative to decide where their children go for their education.

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