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'Too Many Empty Classrooms and Too Few Students' CPS Superintendent Says

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told parents the district can't finance underenrolled schools as a second round of community meetings begins.

Chicago Public Schools can no longer afford to keep schools that aren't full of students, CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett told parents in a letter Wednesday. 

The letter followed CPS's preliminary list of 129 schools slated for closure in the district. While most of the schools were in the South, Southwest and West parts of the city, four were in the Andersonville and Uptown area. 

"We simply can no longer continue to finance underutilized schools because our children and our city’s future will pay the price," Byrd-Bennett said in the letter. 

The CEO has a March 31 deadline to announce the final number of schools that will close. 

The list came out days before the second round of public meetings. The Rock Island District community meeting, of which the 19th Ward is a part of, takes place on Feb. 25. 

Below is Byrd-Bennett's full letter: 

Dear Parents and Guardians,

I want to personally reach out to you about the next steps we are taking to address the school utilization crisis currently facing our District. I’ve talked with many of you and I can see your commitment to your children’s future and I share that commitment.

As a former teacher and principal, my top priority is making sure every child in Chicago has access to a high-quality, well-rounded education. I also know that this requires us to make tough choices. Our District faces a $1 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year, while nearly half of our schools are underutilized. We have too many empty classrooms and too few students. I cannot stress enough how this crisis is stretching our resources thin and limiting our ability to give every student the education they deserve.

We simply can no longer continue to finance underutilized schools because our children and our city’s future will pay the price. Our city’s population has significantly declined over the past decade and has impacted our student enrollment. Today, we are supporting over 100,000 empty desks. The consequences are too severe to accept for our children: students in underutilized schools are more likely to be in split-grade classrooms; have limited access to art and music; lack access to support staff like nurses and counselors as well as safety and intervention services to help struggling children. That is not acceptable for our children.

By implementing a comprehensive and effective plan to use our resources smartly, we can fully invest in all students. In doing this, we will be better prepared to give all of our children a more robust and enriching experience every day that includes access to libraries, new technologies and computers, art and music, nurses and counselors,
and playgrounds.

That said, the safety and security of every student is essential and we will not close any school where I believe we cannot guarantee the safety of our children as part of their transition to a new welcoming school. I will not compromise the safety of a single child.

As we continue this hard work, your voice matters. As a mother and grandmother, I know how critical the voices of parents are to ensuring our District is serving our students well. That is why I made a commitment early on to engage you and your school communities on the front end of this process, first through community meetings with the independent Commission on School Utilization and now through meetings with Chicago Public School officials, because you are a partner in this work.

The Commission on School Utilization held 10 public meetings and gathered feedback from hundreds of parents, educators, community members, and subject-matter experts before presenting me with an interim report in January. I accepted many of their recommendations, including removing all Level 1 (high-performing) schools and high schools from consideration.

Over the past two weeks, we have listened closely to the more than 8,500 people who have participated in 15 community meetings with CPS staff, held in each CPS School Network. And during this time, we have continued analyzing the Commission’s remaining recommendations, in order to create a comprehensive and detailed set of planning criteria to help us move forward. We started this process with a total of 330 underutilized schools, and based directly on feedback from the community, we have removed 201 schools from potential closure. This leaves 129 underutilized schools under consideration for closure at this time. Let me emphasize that this list of schools is NOT FINAL. I expect more to be removed from consideration after listening to your feedback over the next two weeks.

At this time, your child’s school has been removed from consideration for closure to help address our utilization crisis. However, I still welcome your feedback at your upcoming school community meeting to get your input on other schools in your area. These meetings are divided by School Network and listed below. If you are unsure in which Network your child’s school belongs, please contact your school or call a Parent Support Center listed below and they will be able to assist you. You can view the entire list and criteria by visiting our website at www.cps.edu/qualityschools.

Over the next two weeks, I urge you to participate in your upcoming school community meeting. These are divided by School Network and listed below. If you are unsure of the Network in which your child’s school belongs, please contact your school or call a Parent Support Center listed below and they will be able to assist you.

Please remember that I will not make any decisions without your input. I look forward to reviewing your continued feedback, which I will carefully consider as I prepare to make my final recommendations to the Board of Education. Thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding during this time.

Sincerely,
Barbara Byrd-Bennett
CEO, Chicago Public Schools

Community Meetings on School Closures

DATE NETWORK TIME LOCATION 2/13/2013 Austin-North Lawndale 7-9 pm House of Prayer Church of God in Christ, 3535 W.

 

Roosevelt Rd. NEW LOCATION!

2/14/2013 Lake Calumet 7-9 pm Olive Harvey College, 10001 S. Woodlawn 2/16/2013 Ravenswood-Ridge 11am-

 

1pm

Truman College, 1145 W. Wilson 2/18/2013 Englewood-Gresham 7-9 pm Liberation Christian Center, 6810 S. Ashland 2/19/2013 Burnham Park 7-9 pm St. Anselm Church, 6045 S. Michigan 2/20/2013 Skyway 7-9 pm South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. Shore Dr. 2/21/2013 Pershing 7-9 pm Fuller Park Field House, 331 W. 45th St 2/23/2013 O’Hare 11am-

 

1pm

Wright College, 4300 N. Narragansett 2/25/2013 Rock Island 7-9 pm Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted 2/26/2013 Fulton 7-9 pm First Baptist Congregational Church, 1613 W. Washington 2/27/2013 Garfield-Humboldt 7-9 pm Mt. Vernon MB Church, 2622 W. Jackson 2/28/2013 Fullerton 7-9 pm Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie 3/2/2013 Midway 11am-

 

1pm

Daley College, 7500 S. Pulaski 3/4/2013 Pilsen-Little Village 7-9 pm Arturo Velasquez Institute, 2800 S. Western

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