February 11, 2013
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is reminding parents today that a second round of 14 meetings to engage school communities on the District’s utilization crisis begins this Wednesday, February 13. Parents and community members will have an opportunity to provide feedback on specific underutilized schools in their area that are still under consideration for action to help address this crisis and allow CPS to redirect resources to all schools as the District faces down a $1 billion deficit next fiscal year. The first round of these meetings, which ends tonight, is expected to gather feedback from more than 7,500 participants from throughout Chicago.
CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett vowed last November that CPS would engage parents and school communities on the front end of this process to ensure their voices are heard and help guide the decisions she will make before presenting a final list of recommended schools to the Board of Education later in March. This is the first time that CPS is engaging parents this early in the process before actions are proposed for any schools.
Wednesday’s meeting will be hosted in the Austin-North Lawndale Network, which has been moved to the House of Prayer Church of God in Christ on 3535 West Roosevelt Road to accommodate the anticipated increase in community participation.
“Before taking any steps to address our District’s utilization crisis, I made a commitment to our parents that we would engage them at the start of this process so they are given the respect they deserve as partners in this work,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “I am so grateful to the thousands that have already participated in these meetings and provided us with the feedback I need to make the best decisions possible for our children and their learning. I urge all school communities to participate in the next round of meetings over these next two weeks and look forward to receiving their input.”
Community meetings held during the first round included a presentation on data and metrics on all schools at the Network level to gather feedback from school communities. The next round will allow school communities to give feedback on specific schools in their areas that are being considered for potential consolidation or closure to help address the District’s utilization crisis and redirect resources to better invest dollars in all students. CEO Byrd-Bennett will not make final decisions on any schools until all feedback has been received from this next round of meetings.
Community meetings being held this week are:
- 2/13/2013: Austin-North Lawndale, 7-9 pm, House of Prayer Church of God in Christ, 3535 W. Roosevelt Road (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
CEO Byrd-Bennett committed to all school communities that CPS would release a preliminary list of schools that remain under consideration as we continue to address the utilization crisis facing our District. Today, CPS serves 403,000 students but has space for 511,000. Nearly 140 schools are more than half-empty and about 50 percent of all schools are underutilized, which is limiting our ability to make targeted investments to support student learning for every child.
In November 2012, CEO Byrd-Bennett formed the independent Commission on School Utilization to gather data and community feedback about the District’s utilization challenges and to engage school communities around how to best address them. After hearing from parents and school community members at over 10 public meetings, the Commission issued a series of recommendations in January to remove schools from consideration as part of this process, including taking high schools and high-performing Level 1 schools off the table.
CEO Byrd-Bennett embraced both of these recommendations and she and her team are further defining and applying the Commission’s other recommendations, which will remove even more schools from consideration. After the release of this report, she then launched a second phase of a more rigorous community engagement process to get feedback from school communities via two meetings in each of the District’s 14 School Networks. The second round of this phase begins this Wednesday.
By addressing this crisis, CPS will be able to better redirect resources and invest in programs and supports that provide all children with a more well-rounded, high-quality education, such as new technology, playgrounds, libraries, AC, more nurses and counselors and art and music programs.
School communities are being notified of their local meetings via a variety of communication methods, including robo-calls, letters delivered home to parents and by email, via cps.edu, on social media and at individual schools. A complete list of upcoming community meetings can be found at www.cps.edu/qualityschools.
Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.