Chicago Public Schools is calling in backup for what could be the most school closings for any city in a single year.
The district hired an ex-Marine and assigned 20 central office staff to safety and security planning. They announced Thursday a plan to ramp up security and dispatch extra support to schools receiving kids as a result of closures.
CPS officials did not say how much the plan would cost.
“Everybody got it, that we really needed to close schools, that we really needed to consolidate,” CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said Thursday, adding that the two biggest community concerns she saw in the “huge binders” put together from the hearings were safety and better academics.
There are currently 129 schools on the list eligible for closure. Parents, teachers and students from those and other schools showed up by the hundreds to dozens of public meetings last month. An overwhelming majority of people at those meetings asked CPS not to close their schools. The district said more than 20,000 people gave feedback.
School closures are not easy and CPS has been criticized in the past for not successfully transitioning students to their new schools.
“We know we’re going to need to amp it up for the school actions and I want to show everyone we’re ready to do so,” said CPS Chief of Safety and Security Jadine Chou.
Chou said she has been in constant contact with the Chicago Police Department, who will also be involved in planning transitions once a list of schools to be closed is finalized.
On Monday, the district posted a Request for Proposals seeking contractors that could move school inventory, change door locks, transfer student records and hire movers for the closures. It asks applicants to list prices for 20, 40, 60, 80, 100 and 129 schools. The proposal indicates CPS plans to award a contract on April 3.
A number of community groups were also sent an e-mail Wednesday asking if they were interested in providing activities, like field trips and picnics, at receiving schools. Those groups were asked if they could offer programs for free or if they would need to be paid.
CPS did not provide any cost estimates for the plan. District spokeswoman Becky Carroll said they won’t know how much it will cost until the list is finalized.