Small Victory For South Side Schools Slated For Closure | WBEZ
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Small Victory For South Side Schools Slated For Closure

Citing community concerns, Chicago Public Schools plans to reverse course and delay closing three Englewood high schools to allow all current students to graduate, Schools CEO Janice Jackson announced Monday. CPS had originally proposed closing four schools — every neighborhood high school in Englewood — this June.

That fourth Englewood school, Robeson, is still slated to be shuttered this June. That closure would make room for a new $85 million high school to be built on its site, opening for freshmen in fall 2019.

Jackson had previously said it would be “inhumane” to keep the schools open for even one more year. The schools can’t afford a full array of classes or extracurriculars because so few children attend. CPS will continue to provide the schools extra money so they can offer the minimum classes students need to graduate. 

Jackson said Monday she made the decision because she wanted to respond to parents and students “who said ‘I like my school. This is a safe place for me. It is like a family. I want to graduate with my classmates.’” 

Under this new plan, CPS will avoid scattering students outside the neighborhood — one of several reasons the plan has faced strong opposition at community hearings and at recent protests. The original plan called for students at the four schools, Hope, TEAM, Harper, and Robeson, to transfer to a variety of different high schools. The Board of Education could consider this revised plan as soon as Feb 28. 

CPS said it’s providing extensive help for students transferring from Robeson and is also offering the same support to students at the three other schools if they chose not to stay next year. CPS has proposed setting aside $8.5 million for this transition support.

CPS proposed the Englewood closings — now phase-outs for three of them — because of low enrollment. The student populations at the four schools ranges from 90 to 135 students in buildings designed for ten times those numbers. More than 90 percent of students who live in the community do not attend their neighborhood high school in Englewood. Citywide, 22 percent of students attend their assigned neighborhood high schools, CPS data shows.

Supporters of these schools said those Englewood numbers reflect a long history of disinvestment in these communities and a policy of school choice that has flooded a school system beset with declining enrollment with extra seats. Chicago now has far more schools and classrooms than it has children.

CPS has lost 32,000 students over the last five years, nearly the same enrollment drop as in the 10-year period leading to the closures of 50 elementary schools in 2013. Those missing students could fill 53 average-sized Chicago schools, a WBEZ analysis found.

Also Monday, CPS said it will fund a study to consider options to reuse one of four buildings proposed to be phased out, Harper High School in Englewood. Possibilities include an elementary school, a citywide high school with a specialty focus, a job training center, or a business incubator, CPS said.

Follow Sarah Karp on Twitter @WBEZeducation.

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