WBEZ | underutilized schools http://www.wbez.org/tags/underutilized-schools Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en WBEZ tours 'half-empty' schools http://www.wbez.org/news/wbez-tours-half-empty-schools-105045 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/8402268243_dc137552f7.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><object height="450" width="620"><param name="flashvars" value="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632580709754%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632580709754%2F&amp;set_id=72157632580709754&amp;jump_to=" /><param name="movie" value="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><embed allowfullscreen="true" flashvars="offsite=true&amp;lang=en-us&amp;page_show_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632580709754%2Fshow%2F&amp;page_show_back_url=%2Fphotos%2Fchicagopublicradio%2Fsets%2F72157632580709754%2F&amp;set_id=72157632580709754&amp;jump_to=" height="450" src="http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=124984" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="620"></embed></object><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F75866008" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago Public School leaders say 137 of their schools are sitting half-empty &ndash; with way too few students. When they talk about closing schools to make the district more efficient, these are the schools they&rsquo;re talking about. WBEZ went to see what it looks and feels like inside some of the district&rsquo;s &ldquo;underutilized&rdquo; elementary schools.&nbsp;</p><p>On a sunny, cold Thursday morning, Principal Keshia Warner showed me around Drake Elementary School in Bronzeville.</p><p>At first impression, the three-story, 1960s-era building felt almost empty, with bare white walls and un-scuffed floors.<br /><br />&ldquo;Now we&rsquo;re basically on the first level of the school building and at our entry, the first room is our art room,&rdquo; Warner said, opening the door to a colorful classroom. &ldquo;So, we have art as a half-time program so art is here on Monday, Tuesday and the morning Wednesday, so right now, that&rsquo;s why there&rsquo;s nobody in there.&rdquo;</p><p>The wide hallways are quiet and the first few classrooms we pass either have no students or are being used for small groups of special needs students.</p><p>On paper, Drake is eligible to be closed at the end of the school year. It&rsquo;s less than 40 percent full by the district&rsquo;s standards. It&rsquo;s on academic probation and the 52-year-old building is expensive to maintain.</p><p>The cash-strapped school district wants to close schools like Drake, not because it will save a lot of money, but because they won&rsquo;t have to spread resources &ndash;&nbsp;including teachers &ndash;&nbsp;across all these &ldquo;half-empty&rdquo; schools. School officials have said that for safety reasons, it will not close high schools if they can help it.</p><p>For these small schools, Warner and principals like her all across CPS are faced with a puzzle every year because funding is based on enrollment and &ldquo;it&rsquo;s not funded based off of one teacher per grade level anymore,&rdquo; Warner tells me.</p><p>Instead, the district uses a complicated formula to calculate how many teachers a school needs. And often, schools with smaller enrollments, like Drake, don&rsquo;t get a teacher for every grade.</p><p>&ldquo; As far as kindergarten, a half-time position from the board, and I use school funds to pay for the other half so it&rsquo;s a full-day kindergarten,&rdquo; Warner said.</p><p>For grades first, second and third, Drake gets just two teachers, so Warner had to decide whether to buy another teacher with her own funds, or combine grades in one classroom. This year, Drake has two classrooms with mixed grades.</p><p>The 2nd and 3rd grade room has 32 kids and it&rsquo;s packed &ndash;&nbsp;you can tell when you walk in.</p><p>Over the sound of students&#39; chatter, the teacher says, &ldquo;I like how the students at table one are continuing with their assignment.&rdquo;</p><p>Both of the split classes are taught by veteran teachers. Liliana Logli teaches the 1st-2nd grade split.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s definitely a challenge,&rdquo; Logli said. &ldquo;It fluctuates. At the beginning of the year, I think I had 38 and now I&rsquo;m down to 33 or 34. I&rsquo;ve gotten the hang of it, because I&rsquo;ve been doing it for several years now, but it definitely is a challenge because you have to teach two different curriculums in reading, in math.&rdquo;</p><p>This is partly why CPS officials say school closings are necessary. If Drake had twice as many students it wouldn&rsquo;t have to combine grades, especially in the early years when research shows small class sizes are more important.</p><p>District officials say schools that are under enrolled are also more likely to have crowded classrooms &ndash;&nbsp;and not just by a few kids. They&rsquo;re more likely to be over the district&rsquo;s class size limit by more than a few students.</p><p>In many ways, Drake is a good example why the district wants to close and consolidate schools &ndash;&nbsp;there simply aren&rsquo;t as many school-aged children in Bronzeville anymore.</p><p>Drake used to be surrounded by public housing &ndash; the Robert Taylor homes to the south, the Dearborn Homes to the west. Most of them have been torn down or turned into mixed income developments.</p><p>&ldquo;The housing projects gone now, people moving to different places in the city, our enrollment has definitely been affected,&rdquo; said Logli. &ldquo;I think we had 700, close to 800 kids when I first started here, and now maybe, what? 250 if we&rsquo;re lucky.&rdquo;</p><p>But Principal Warner says closing schools could be short-sighted in communities like Bronzeville, where gentrification is still a goal, in spite of recession and the loss of the 2016 Olympics that could have boosted the neighborhood.</p><p>&ldquo;What are the big plans?&rdquo; Warner said. &ldquo;Because I heard plans 5-6 years ago about plans to put in more businesses, and have the first floor be businesses and above be residential and if that&rsquo;s the case, I think there will be a population that will need this school.&rdquo;</p><p>Even though Drake is rated in the lowest performance category at CPS, it has been improving in recent years and Warner says the school&rsquo;s balance of space and kids contributes to that.</p><p>&ldquo;I really do enjoy having a school under 300 students, our being a family. I can know students by name, know their parents when they walk in the building, I think that establishes really good relationships with parents and students,&rdquo; Warner said.&nbsp; &ldquo;I can actually keep up with them when I&rsquo;m looking at data, I know who that number, that&rsquo;s just a percentage on paper, but I know who that child is, to speak to them the next day.&rdquo;</p><p>Of course, having a list of 137 under-used schools doesn&rsquo;t mean they&rsquo;re interchangeable.&nbsp;</p><p>On paper, Drake looks a lot like Till Elementary School in the south side Woodlawn neighborhood.</p><p>Till is about 40 percent utilized, it&rsquo;s rated in the lowest category for performance and costs a lot of money to maintain.<br />But when I visited Till felt completely different than Drake. Every grade had two classrooms of about 25 students. There was both a full-time gym teacher and a full-time librarian.</p><p>Principal Charles Asiyanbi said he had to purchase four teachers with his discretionary budget in order to keep his classrooms under 25 students.</p><p>&ldquo;I will mortgage the farm to do that,&rdquo; Asiyanbi said.</p><p>The day I was at Till, four new students enrolled. Asiyanbi said it happens a lot; given how much people move around in the community, he never really knows how many kids he&rsquo;ll have.</p><p>Till has two buildings and both use only a few rooms on their top floors.&nbsp;</p><p>But Asiyanbi says combining the two wouldn&rsquo;t be ideal.</p><p>&ldquo;I think with the older kids and the younger kids, it needs to be a clear delineation,&rdquo; Asiyanbi said. &ldquo;The development process for older kids is totally different.&rdquo;</p><p>Both Warner and Asiyanbi know their schools are on the list of those that could be closed.</p><p>Both say they would like to take on more students, but not too many. Both actually use most of what&rsquo;s considered &ldquo;extra space&rdquo; in one way or another &ndash;&nbsp;a special education room here, a counselor&rsquo;s office there.</p><p>Both say they hope people at CPS headquarters scrutinize more than what&rsquo;s on paper.</p><p>&ldquo;Your hope is that when decisions are made, all the criteria is looked at, not just that you&rsquo;re underutilized, because the adults in the building haven&rsquo;t been able to control,&rdquo; Warner said. &ldquo;If there were more children to get in, we would.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, Chicago Public Schools is up against a $1 billion deficit.</p><p>So even if schools are merged, there&rsquo;s no guarantee the remaining schools wouldn&rsquo;t also face budget cuts.</p></p> Tue, 22 Jan 2013 05:20:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/wbez-tours-half-empty-schools-105045 The proportion of privately run Chicago public schools to increase http://www.wbez.org/news/proportion-privately-run-chicago-public-schools-increase-104303 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/uno%20galewood-lee%20bey.jpg" style="height: 296px; width: 740px;" title="(Lee Bey/WBEZ) A brand new UNO charter school opens in Galewood earlier this year." /></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F70756283" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>At the same time Chicago Public Schools says it needs to close down schools, maybe as many as 100, it&rsquo;s planning to open brand new ones.</p><p>In a promotional video for a new high school called Intrinsic, illustrations of the city&rsquo;s skyline and the EL tracks swirl around cartoon students. The students tout their teachers&rsquo; credentials and brag about the projects they&rsquo;re working on.</p><p>&ldquo;The teachers at Intrinsic are great,&rdquo; says the cartoon boy. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ve worked at schools like Walter Payton and Whitney Young.&rdquo;</p><p>Intrinsic is not open yet. It&rsquo;s one of at least 17 new schools the district wants to open next fall. Fourteen charter and contract schools, run by outside groups and three district-run high schools. (See complete list at the end of this article.)</p><p>CPS leaders say 136 schools are half empty. Most of those schools are on the south and west sides of the city. School officials argue it doesn&rsquo;t make sense to keep running those schools, because it costs money to keep the lights on and school resources get spread too thin.</p><p>They say if they consolidate, or &ldquo;right-size,&rdquo; they can spend more money on the buildings they do keep open&mdash;adding air-conditioning, art and music, all the things people say are missing right now.</p><p>But why would the district open schools when it says it has too many already?</p><p>&ldquo;We also need to be strategic and ensure that we are doing everything we can to immediately expand access to high quality school options for parents in every community,&rdquo; said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll.</p><p>Carroll also points to areas of the city where classrooms are overcrowded&mdash;the heavily Latino north and west sides of the city. She says CPS may need to build or open new schools in those areas.</p><p>Phyllis Lockett echoed Carroll&rsquo;s point about quality. She runs New Schools for Chicago, which has raised more than $30 million to help CPS gradually open charter schools every year for the past decade.</p><p>&ldquo;Saving dollars cannot be the only solution, you&rsquo;ve got to focus on quality,&rdquo; Lockett said.</p><p>While Lockett equates new schools with quality, the fact is, the new schools the city has created over the last decade have <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-schools-failing-grades-still-featured-quality-schools-fair-104271">had mixed success</a>.</p><p>Some people have said that closing traditional schools and opening charter schools is actually about privatizing education&mdash;not about quality or enrollment or anything else.</p><p>It&rsquo;s true that if CPS closes dozens of traditional schools and then opens charters, the proportion of public schools run by private entities jumps significantly.</p><p>Think about the math. Right now, 14 percent of CPS&rsquo;s 681 schools are privately run charter and contract schools.</p><p>If the district closes 100 schools, and then opens 60 new charters in the next five years, the percentage of privately run schools could jump up to 27 percent. In a grant application to the Gates Foundation, CPS leaders said they planned to open 100 new schools in the next five years, 60 of them charters. Carroll has said that number was just an estimate based on past growth.</p><p>Still, a number of charter leaders have big expansion plans.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that number ought to grow,&rdquo; said Juan Rangel. He runs the United Neighborhood Organization, which operates one of the city&rsquo;s largest charter school networks.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been at this for 15 years now, and if anybody told me we would be in the place we are today back in 1997, I wouldn&rsquo;t have believed it,&rdquo; Rangel said. &ldquo;But here we are, and so I&rsquo;m really hopeful that in five years the school district will look very different than it does today.&rdquo;</p><p>UNO has more aggressive expansion plans. Rangel said he hopes to open five new schools a year for the next five years, bringing UNO&rsquo;s total to more than 30 schools.</p><p>But he&rsquo;s not alone. The district&rsquo;s biggest high school charter network, the Noble Network of Charter Schools, wants to open two new high schools a year for the next four years, bringing its total to right around 20.&nbsp;</p><p>And at least four national operators&mdash;Rocketship Education, Basis Schools, Concept Schools, and Charter Schools USA-- applied to open schools here next fall, according to Illinois Network of Charter Schools executive director Andrew Broy.&nbsp;</p><p>The new schools that have opened in the last decade draw students away from their home schools, even though overall public school enrollment has dropped just 6 percent. The Chicago Teachers Union has said that&rsquo;s contributed to the problem of &ldquo;underutilization&rdquo; in so many CPS schools.</p><p>It&rsquo;s unclear how the district will prevent home schools from becoming under-enrolled as they plan to open more new schools.</p><p>&ldquo;Part of what Chicago is really suffering from is they don&rsquo;t have a long range plan,&rdquo; said Mary Filardo, the executive director of the 21st Century Schools Fund, a non-profit that studies how school districts manage their real estate.</p><p>CPS&rsquo;s Carroll says school leaders plan to sell off the empty buildings, which Filardo warns could be a shortsighted move.</p><p>&ldquo;Chicago could find itself in really a pickle, if it does not retain some of its public infrastructure,&rdquo; Filardo said. &ldquo;You don&rsquo;t have age-level enrollment projections, population projections, you don&rsquo;t have a master plan. Do you want 75 percent to be neighborhood Chicago public school based and 25 percent private? Do you want it 50-50? I mean where are you going?&rdquo;</p><p>If CPS does not put together a plan to address those questions, Filardo says, it could find itself in a similar situation five years from now, even if enrollment holds steady:&nbsp; With too many schools&mdash;and a big fight on its hands.&nbsp;</p><p>Schools slated to open Fall 2013:<br /> <style type="text/css"> table.tableizer-table { border: 1px solid #CCC; font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; } .tableizer-table td { padding: 4px; margin: 3px; border: 1px solid #ccc; } .tableizer-table th { background-color: #104E8B; color: #FFF; font-weight: bold; }</style> </p><table class="tableizer-table"><tbody><tr class="tableizer-firstrow"><th>New School</th><th>Grades served</th><th>Approved or Pending</th></tr><tr><td>Chicago Collegiate Charter School</td><td>4-12</td><td>pending&nbsp;</td></tr><tr><td>The Orange School</td><td>K-8</td><td>pending&nbsp;</td></tr><tr><td>Foundations College Prep</td><td>6-12</td><td>pending&nbsp;</td></tr><tr><td>Intrinsic Schools</td><td>6-12</td><td>pending&nbsp;</td></tr><tr><td>Camelot&nbsp;</td><td>alternative students</td><td>pending&nbsp;</td></tr><tr><td>Crane (Medical) HS</td><td>9-12</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>Back of the Yards HS</td><td>9-12</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>Disney II HS</td><td>9-12</td><td>pending&nbsp;</td></tr><tr><td>Marine Military Academy (expansion)</td><td>7-8</td><td>pending&nbsp;</td></tr><tr><td>Rickover Naval Academy (expansion)</td><td>7-8</td><td>pending&nbsp;</td></tr><tr><td>UNO Soccer Academy HS</td><td>9-12</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>UNO elementary campus</td><td>K-8</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>UNO elementary campus</td><td>K-8</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>UNO elementary campus</td><td>K-8</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>Noble - Orange campus</td><td>9-12</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>Noble - Crimson campus</td><td>9-12</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>Christopher House</td><td>PK-8</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>LEARN-7th campus</td><td>K-8</td><td>approved</td></tr><tr><td>LEARN-8th campus</td><td>K-8</td><td>approved</td></tr></tbody></table><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 11 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/proportion-privately-run-chicago-public-schools-increase-104303