CPS School Closings: 54 School Programs, 61 School Buildings To Shutter, District Announces

CPS Announces Its Largest School Closing Push Ever

Updated story

Chicago Public Schools on Thursday announced their plan to close 54 of the district's school programs and 61 school buildings.

The closures were announced at 5 p.m. Thursday and the Chicago Teachers Union has the full list of impacted schools.

According to DNAinfo Chicago, six schools will be placed on turnaround status and 11 schools will be merged under the proposal -- which still needs approval from the Chicago Board of Education, following two community meetings on the matter.

(The Sun-Times has an interactive map of the CPS schools named for closure, shown with neighborhood poverty levels, on Thursday.)

City Hall insiders previously told the Sun-Times Wednesday that the district had notified aldermen representing wards that are home to schools that are set to be closed. The CPS actions are the largest planned round of school closings ever undertaken anywhere in the U.S.

In lieu of a formal announcement, leaked news of the closures trickled in throughout the day Thursday. In the late afternoon, parent advocacy group Raise Your Hand released a partial, unofficial list of 14 schools it had learned were among 52 schools the district was expected to announce will be closed, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis previously said the closures would send the district "into chaos." In a lengthy statement released just before CPS's anticipated formal announcement of the closures, Lewis lambasted CPS and Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration:

"Rahm Emanuel has become the ‘murder mayor.’ He is murdering public services. Murdering our ability to maintain public sector jobs and now he has set his sights on our public schools. But we have news for him: We don’t intend to die."

A CPS spokeswoman previously told NBC Chicago the "about 50" figure reported by the Sun-Times was "inaccurate." CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement late Wednesday that her closure recommendations were coming soon "soon" so that "we can get those students safely into a higher performing school that will have all the things they need to learn and succeed," the Chicago Tribune reports.

According to the Associated Press, teachers at impacted schools on Thursday morning said they had begun getting formal notice of the closures. WBEZ reported that about a handful of the district's schools will see their entire staffs dismissed over low performance as they are "turned around."

Meanwhile, Emanuel is on a family skiing vacation in Utah this week, a fact that angered Clarice Berry, president of the Chicago Principals and Administrators Association, according to the Tribune.

“I’m angry. I’m upset. I’m shaking to the core," she told the Tribune. "I didn’t think they’d actually go through with this, the largest number of closings ever. There’s been no real planning."

Protests are expected as community groups rally in an effort to stop the closures, which disproportionately impact minority students. A mass rally on the matter has been scheduled for 4 p.m. on March 27 at Daley Plaza and the Chicago Teachers Union is threatening major protests and acts of disobedience, WBEZ reports.

The recently-formed Chicago Progressive Reform Coalition -- consisting of eight of the city's 50 aldermen -- released a statement calling for an immediate moratorium on closures and accusing the district of "violating the Illinois General Assembly’s requirement that it disclose its ten-year master facilities plan" prior to going ahead with the closing action.

Among the fears some parents and community groups have expressed of the closures are students' safety should they have to cross gang boundaries by going to a new school. Parents also expressed frustration, according to the AP, with how news of the closures slowly trickled out throughout Thursday.

"In a word, the approach was brutal. It's certainly not deserved by these parents and these kids," Mary Visconti, the director of the Better Boys Foundation, a Lawndale youth organization, told the AP Thursday.

The district argued this week that delaying its planned dozens of closures amid what they describe as a "underutilization" crisis would be "criminal" and touted that the closures would allow them to redistribute resources -- such as air conditioning in every classroom and new discretionary funding -- to schools receiving students from closed schools.

Previously, as many as 129 CPS schools were identified as candidates for consolidation and a CPS-appointed commission said earlier this month that the district could safely consolidate no more than 80 schools over the next two years. The district's final list of recommended closures is due by March 31.

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