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First salvos fired in Chicago Public Schools' closing fight

The Chicago Board of Education today heard arguments for and against upcoming school closings. Top CPS officials said some schools just cannot be improved, at least not quickly.

CPS Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat said that’s why the district wants to close struggling schools and open new options in their place.

"We have to have the urgency to say, ‘Students need a better education starting now, and not anytime later than that,'" Sicat told board members.

He said the district will address community concerns regarding the safety of children traveling further to get to school--and sometimes across neighborhood lines. Chicago Public Schools will also offer one-on-one meetings with parents at closing schools to find children new options.

Jesse Sharkey of the teachers union says struggling schools are often plagued by high staff turnover. He called school closings a “death sentence” for crimes current teachers didn’t commit and said school closings and consolidations weigh heavily on affected communities.

"No other types of actions have been as controversial and have caused as much protest and outcry in this city as these actions," Sharkey said.

Chicago is subject to a new state law that grew out of frustration with the city’s divisive annual process for school closings. The district must now say by December 1 which schools it wants to shut down.



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