Commission says CPS should close or consolidate under-utilized schools

March 6, 2013 8:33:42 PM PST
Chicago Public Schools says it spends millions each year keeping under-enrolled schools open.

Now, with a cashed strapped school district, officials say it's time to close schools.

The Commission on School Utilization, assembled to study the school system's future, agrees.

However, in its final report, the commission recommended closing only the schools where students can be transferred safely to a better performing school.

Commission Chair Frank Clark says CPS has the capacity to consolidate 80 schools.

"What that is really based on is the number of seats the receiving schools that would be classified as better performing have," said Clark.

While CPS says under-utilization is the only factor it is considered for school closings, the commission says CPS must look beyond the numbers.

"You have to look at how the school is utilized in community. Utilization is important, but not the sole criteria," said Clark.

The commission also believes all school actions should be on the table, including turnarounds. That is when the entire staff of a poor performing school is replaced.

The Chicago Teachers Union and several parents are against any type of school action.

In a written statement, CTU President Karen Lewis calls the commission's report "outrageous."

"Given the history of CPS, there is no way it has the capacity to shut down 13 percent of our entire school district without mass chaos," said Lewis in the statement. Meanwhile, the commission recommends consolidating schools sooner rather than later, and can implement the measure over a one or two year period.