CPS wants to close 2 grade schools, phase out 2 high schools

Tribune Reporter

Chicago Public Schools is seeking to close two under-performing elementary schools and begin to phase out two struggling high schools next school year, part of a large-scale re-structuring of CPS under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s leadership team.

CPS officials will formally ask the school board in February to shutter Simon Guggenheim Elementary, 7141 S. Morgan St. in Englewood, and Florence B. Price, 4351 S. Drexel Blvd.  in the North Kenwood neighborhood.

Officials said both school are chronic poor performers on state standardized tests, but also met other criteria that contributed to inadequate learning environments.

Officials also want to phase-out Crane Tech High School on the near West Side, 2245 W. Jackson Blvd., and Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st St. near Washington Park.

Beginning next school year, incoming freshmen that would have gone to Crane will be reassigned to nearby Wells High School, while Dyett’s incoming freshmen will be re-routed to Phillips High School, a turnaround school run by the nonprofit Academy for Urban School Leadership. Both Crane and Dyett will remain open until their current crop of freshman graduate.

CPS also wants to close three schools that had already begun the phase-out process years ago:

-- Reed, in Englewood, with 44 students attending grades 3-8.

-- Lathrop, in West Lawndale, where 83 students attend grades 3-8.

-- Best Practice High School on the near west side (this is a technicality because the school actually completed its phase-out a year early, and no students attend this year).

The district is also proposing to consolidate six schools into co-campuses:

-- Academy of Community and Technology, a charter school, will share a building in Austin with Nash Elementary.

-- Chicago School for the Arts, which already occupies the Doolittle West building and shares an auditorium with neighboring Doolittle East, will use some classrooms in Doolittle East next year, too.

-- Talent Development High School, which started in 2009 but is limited to 200 students right now because of space constraints, will take space in the Crane High School building on the near west side when Crane begins its phase-out. Talent Development expects to have as many as 600 students next year.

(Read CPS's full report on the proposed closings here.)

Speaking to reporters Wednesday morning, CPS chief Jean-Claude Brizard said the list of troubled schools in CPS is long, but these closing or phasing out these schools was a step in the right direction.

“We know how difficult this is for some folks,” Brizard said. “But we all have to agree that we have to do what’s right for kids and this is the best solution.”

As word spread Wednesday morning about the planned closure and phase-outs, students and parents fought back.

At Crane Tech, students littered the sidewalk outside of the school with ripped up letters announcing the phase out at the school. Students had been handed envelopes containing the letters at school today.

  "Why are they closing a school that has been around for so long to make way for a school that just opened three years ago?" asked student Precious Quinn, 17, a freshman who was enrolled in a two-year program at the school to make up credits from the 8th grade.

Quinn said her mom, dad, uncle and grandmother all graduated from Crane.

While the phase-out process proceeds, Crane also will be asked to share its building with Chicago Talent Development High School, a charter. Many students Wednesday said they weren’t happy to make room for another school.

"I don't want to share my school," Quinn said. "Chicago Talent doesn’t have their own school, but that doesn’t mean they can have our school."

At Price Elementary, where the enrollment of 111 students is less than half of the school’s capacity, parents and community members were upset that CPS was giving up on a school that had struggled for so long without adequate resources.

“You cannot say that Price is a school that is declining and compare it to a school on the North Side where the students have everything they need,” said Rev. Krista Alston, whose son is a 5th grader at Price.

“We want our children to receive a great education, any parent would,” Alston said. “But this could have been that type of school if CPS would have given it the resources it needs to really make a difference for these children.”

Under the district’s proposal, school buses will be made available for Price students next year to attend an under-enrolled but higher performing charter school four miles north, National Teachers Academy, another school run by AUSL.

“It makes me sad to hear (about the closing) because I’m at this school every day working with these children,” said Price parent Marie Hudson. “And this is the neighborhood where we all want to stay.”

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis blasted CPS’ closure and phase-out proposals, saying such dramatic actions have not shown to be an effective way to improve the displaced students’ education.

“School closings, consolidations, turnarounds and other similar experiments do not work and do little to improve student achievement,” Lewis said. “Today’s ‘school actions’ are the same old, ineffective, policies couched in new and exciting public relations boosting language; however, the outcomes will remain the same. Until this administration addresses the structural inequity in our schools and deals with poverty and other social impediments to learning, we’ll be right back at this place again next year.”

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