Continuing its efforts to make dramatic improvements at underperforming schools, the Chicago Public Schools administration today announced a proposal that calls for the turnaround of six schools. The plan also recommends the closings, consolidations, or relocations of an additional 16 schools due to underutilization or poor facilities.
“We have an obligation to provide the best possible education to every single child in every single one of our schools, and to use our limited resources in the most cost-effective manner, in order to best serve our taxpayers and our constituents all across the city,” Chicago Board of Education President Rufus Williams said. “In neighborhoods where enrollment is sharply declining and we have several buildings that are more than half-empty, we can’t afford to keep all of them open. We need to be more efficient than that and find better uses for our facilities. These efficiencies help us provide more services to our students. Our Board members will be reviewing these proposals—and the turnaround proposals—very closely to make sure they are consistent with providing the best education to our children, as well as making our school system stronger and better managed.”
CPS Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan added: “We’ve seen great progress in our district over the past several years. But there are still too many schools that aren’t making the improvements we need to see, and they’re not serving the needs of their students well enough. Where we see that happening, we have an obligation to the families in those communities to bring them something better. Their children can’t wait another year or two. You only get one chance at a quality education.”
The turnaround strategy—where students stay at the school and new leadership and staff are brought in to dramatically change the culture and expectations—began in 2006, with the conversion of Sherman Elementary School by the Academy for Urban School Leadership. The following year, Harvard Elementary School was turned around by AUSL, and last year, the turnaround program included six schools—three run by AUSL and three run by the newly created CPS Office of School Turnarounds, headed by Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins. Schools that are proposed to be turned around all meet the underperformance criteria that was presented by the CPS administration at the Dec. 17 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education. That criteria is also posted on the CPS website: cps.edu.
This year’s proposals call for the turnaround of five elementary schools and one high school. The transformations would be run by AUSL, the CPS Office of School Turnaround, and the CPS Office of New Schools.
If these turnaround proposals are approved by the Board of Education, the CPS would be slated to have 21 new schools opening in the fall of 2009. That would bring the number of schools opened through the Renaissance 2010 initiative to 96.
The following is a breakdown of the turnaround offices and the proposed schools that they would run:
CPS Office of School Turnarounds:
- Fenger High School, 11220 S. Wallace St.
- Yale, 7025 S. Princeton Ave.
CPS Office of New Schools
- Dulles Elementary School, 6311 S. Calumet Ave.
- Johnson Elementary School, 1420 S. Albany Ave.
Academy for Urban School Leadership
- Bethune, 3030 W. Arthington St.
- Holmes, 955 W. Garfield Blvd.
“This is a tremendous opportunity to bring new leadership and a new culture of excellence to all of these schools,” CPS Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins said. “Our turnaround office and the other educators who are a part of this effort are committed to working hard and doing everything we can to serve these communities well.”
In addition to transforming underperforming schools, the CPS administration has proposed closing or consolidating 16 other schools because their buildings are severely underutilized or their facilities are outdated.
The five elementary schools that are proposed to be closed for low enrollment all have a utilization rate below 40 percent. They are the following:
- Nia, 2040 W. Adams St. (located in the Cregier Multiplex)
- Foundations, 2040 W. Adams St. (located in the Cregier Multiplex)
- Peabody, 1444 W. Augusta Blvd.
- Princeton, 5125 S. Princeton Ave.
- South Chicago, 8255 S. Houston Ave.
One school—Las Casas, 8401 S. Saginaw Ave., a special education high school—is being recommended for closure because of the condition of its facilities. The school is currently housed in a leased Archdiocese building, which requires extensive repair. The CPS administration believes the school’s students would be better served in other programs. All students would be enrolled in other specialized facilities close to where current Las Casas students live.
Four elementary schools and one high school are proposed to be consolidated into other nearby schools, again due to under-enrollment. These schools are also severely underutilized, with Abbott operating at only 11 percent of its capacity. The school with the highest utilization rate is Schiller, at 21 percent. In a consolidation, the school’s teaching staff generally move with the students to the receiving school. The following schools are proposed for consolidation:
- Abbott, 3630 S. Wells Street, to be consolidated into Hendricks, 4316 S. Princeton Ave., and shuttle service will be provided to the affected students.
- Davis Developmental, 9101 S. Jeffrey Blvd., into the new Langston Hughes building, 240 W. 104th St.
- Medill, 1301 W. 14th St., to be consolidated into Smyth , 1059 W. 13th St.
- Schiller, 640 W. Scott St., to be consolidated into Jenner, 1119 N. Cleveland Ave.
- Global Visions High School, a small school at the Bowen campus, 2710 E. 89th St., into New Millennium High School, another small school at the same campus.
Four elementary schools and one high school are recommended to be phased out for low enrollment. All students currently enrolled in these schools will be allowed to graduate, but the schools will not take any new students. The utilization rate ranges from 23 percent at Carpenter to 41 percent at Best Practice. Staff will be determined by enrollment each year in accordance with union regulations. The schools proposed to be phased-out are the following:
- Carpenter, 1250 W. Erie St.
- Hamilton, 1650 W. Cornelia Ave.
- Lathrop, 1440 S. Christiana Ave.
- Reed, 6350 S. Stewart Ave.
- Best Practice High School, 2040 W. Adams St. (located in the Cregier Multiplex)
A series of public hearings and community meetings will be held on these proposals, beginning Jan. 26 and continuing until the middle of February. After considering input from the hearings, the CPS administration will present its plan to the Chicago Board of Education for its consideration. The earliest that the Board of Education could vote on any of the proposals is its Feb. 25 meeting.
The Chicago Public Schools is the nation’s third largest school system. It includes more than 600 schools and serves about 405,000 students.