According to an article from the Chicago Tribune, a report issued by the Commission on School Utilization, tasked by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to analyze school closures, concluded that the district could safely close or overhaul as many as 80 schools this year alone. Although CPS has never closed more than a dozen schools in a single year, the report notes that closing this many schools is logistically possible and provides Mayor Rahm Emanuel's administration and CPS with support in preparing the final list of schools slated for closure and the end of this month.
Here are some facts and details about the panel's report and how it influences the process of moving forward with school closures:
* The commission spent four months preparing its report and took public hearings into account.
* It confirms the district's claims that there are underutilized schools and that these schools suffer the most in terms of academics.
* The report offers five recommendations for CPS in moving forward: only closing schools where students can safely be transferred to better-performing schools; assessing all relevant factors in detail; completing the closures in either one year or two; allocating funding for the influx of relocated students; and creating plans for vacated buildings with an emphasis on the surrounding communities.
* Regardless, the commission admitted that if CPS closed 80 schools, some students would have to travel a significant distance to attend a new school. But if 60 were closed, all displaced students would be within a mile of their new school.
* Moving forward, CPS is working from a list of 129 schools that is set to be whittled down by the end of the month. The 80 school closings suggested by the commission are considered to be flexible, added NBC Chicago.
* Closures are not the only option and the district may pursue staff overhauls or joining poorly performing schools with nearby schools.
* WBEZ noted that the Chicago Teachers Union heavily criticized the report and disagreed with its finding, specifically that the district could not shut down 80, or 13 percent of its schools, without "mass chaos" ensuing.
* The union backed a moratorium on all school closings and requested an independent review of the report to verify the conclusions.
* Other issues still persist as a Chicago Sun-Times analysis found that nine out of 10 students potentially impacted by the school closings are African-American.
* Of the 129 schools on the current list, 103 have at least a 90 percent black student population and nine have a Hispanic majority.
* The major disparities in the impacts among racial groups could set the district up for a major lawsuit when pursuing school closures.
Rachel Bogart provides an in-depth look at current environmental issues and local Chicago news stories. Currently pursuing her master's degree in environmental science, she applies her knowledge and passion to both topics to garner further public awareness.
- Chicago Public Schools