February 13, 2013
After reviewing feedback from community members collected by the independent Commission on School Utilization and recent Chicago Public Schools (CPS) community meetings, CPS Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Barbara Byrd-Bennett today released a detailed set of planning criteria to help address the District’s facilities and budget crisis. The District faces a $1 billion deficit in the coming fiscal year, while nearly half of CPS’ schools are underutilized, stretching resources thin and limiting the District’s ability to provide every student with a well-rounded and high-quality education. This set of criteria will help guide the process of identifying underutilized schools that will be combined with high-performing schools in order to free up resources to improve education across the District.
“As a former teacher and principal, I know that our limited education resources are spread much too thin,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “By combining schools that lack sufficient numbers of students, we can redirect our limited resources to give all of our children the quality education they need and deserve to succeed.”
Of the 330 underutilized schools in CPS, 201 schools have been removed from consideration for closure after receiving community feedback collected by the Commission as well as by CPS over the last two weeks from more than 8,500 parents and community members who participated in one of 15 meetings held in each of its School Networks. While 129 schools remain under consideration, this is only a preliminary list and more schools are expected to be removed over the next several weeks as CPS continues to gather feedback from communities.
Additionally, the safety and security of students continues to be CEO Byrd-Bennett’s top priority. “I will not close any school where I don’t have confidence that children will have a safe and smooth transition at welcoming schools next fall,” she said. Byrd-Bennett promised to continue to engage parents, principals, faith and community leaders, the Chicago Police Department and her safety and security team before making any decisions on which underutilized schools may need to be closed.
Today’s release of this criteria comes in advance of a second round of community meetings that begin tonight to continue gathering feedback and guidance on how to most effectively address the District’s utilization crisis.
Currently, the District has space for over 511,000 students, but only 403,000 are enrolled. Nearly 140 schools are more than half empty. CEO Byrd-Bennett believes that CPS’s limited resources must be used wisely so the District can fully invest in all students and ensure that all schools can benefit from new technologies, playgrounds, libraries, music and art, counselors, nurses and air conditioning. She added that those investments are not possible if CPS continues to maintain half empty schools and crumbling buildings.
Last month, in response to the Commission on School Utilization’s interim report, CPS announced it would not consider high schools and high-performing Level 1 schools. Today, based on additional community feedback and additional commission recommendations from their interim report, CPS will remove from potential closure those schools meeting the following criteria
- High schools
- High performing, Level 1 schools
- Schools in the process of adding grades that are expected to reach efficient utilization based on enrollment trends
- Schools with greater than 600 students enrolled on 20th day of SY2012-13
- Schools with a utilization rate of at least 70% in SY2012-13
- Schools that have recently experienced a significant school action. This is defined as schools that have been a designated welcoming school in the last 3 years or were part of a co-location approved last year that went into effect this year
- Schools that are “on the rise” - defined as meeting one or both of the following:
- A. Level 2 schools that have gained enrollment over the last 3 years OR
- B. Any schools that are “sustainable and improving performance”. These schools meet ALL of the following:
- Greater than or equal to 300 students enrolled 20th day SY2012-13
- Same or higher performance level for SY2011-12 as SY2010-11
- ISAT composite meets / exceeds trend value that indicates increase in student proficiency
- Students are performing at or above their peers in reading or math for each of the last 3 years
- Schools that are isolated from nearby neighborhood elementary schools
- Schools that are surrounded by schools that are at or near capacity and do not have space to welcome students
CEO Byrd-Bennett urged all members of the community to participate in this next round of community meetings to continue providing feedback needed before presenting final recommendations to the Board of Education later in March. To view the entire list and criteria, visit our website at www.cps.edu/qualityschools.
Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.