Chicago Public Schools plans to shut down low-performing schools next year, and nine of the Austin-area schools could be on the chopping block.
Across Chicago, more than 140 schools meet the district’s proposed criteria for shutdown. A majority of those schools are located on the South and West sides.
It’s not clear how many schools in the city will close, as CPS has not yet released that information. State law requires CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard to announce which schools are slated to close no later than Dec. 1.
Schools rated Level 3 based on CPS’ performance policy — which is used to determine a school’s probation status – for two consecutive years would be candidates for closing, according to CPS’ Draft Guidelines for School Actions released Oct. 31.
A Level 3 rating is the district’s lowest level based on Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) performance.
The nine Austin schools at Level 3 and on probation are: Brunson Math and Science Specialty, Leslie Lewis Elementary, Henry H. Nash Elementary, Louis Armstrong Math and Science Elementary, George Leland Elementary, Ronald E. McNair Elementary, May Elementary Academy, Frederick A. Douglass Academy High School and Michele Clark Academic Preparatory Magnet High School.
The district has until Nov. 30 to finalize the school-action guidelines.
Elementary schools with test results higher than surrounding schools and high schools with higher graduation rates than other schools in the neighborhood will most likely be in the clear and not shut down, according to the guidelines.
Dwayne Truss, vice-chair of the Austin Community Action Council, said it would be unfair of the district to close down Austin schools, as the overall test scores in the community are on the rise.
“We keep preaching to CPS,” Truss said. “Austin school test scores are turning up.”
The schools, along with three others in Austin, received the award for having an upward trend in test scores for at least three years, according to the Illinois Interactive Report Card’s web site.
Nash is also on probation but agreed to extend the school day in September and awarded financial incentives from CPS for doing so.
Truss said it’s unlikely CPS would close down a school that has already agreed to extend the day.
“CPS may knock it off the list,” he said.
CPS spokeswoman Marielle Sainvilus could not say at last Wednesday’s board meeting whether the list of proposed school closings would be released earlier than Dec. 1.
Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat told school board members last week that CPS will hold community meetings after the list is released to discuss the transition process for students and parents. The date and location of those meetings are still to be determined.
Carol Johnson, CPS parent and chairwoman of Spencer Elementary’s Local School Council, said Austin schools are improving academically, but CPS keeps raising the bar. It’s hard for the neighborhood schools to keep up, she said.
“It’s like a football game,” Johnson said. “As soon as we get to get the goal post, CPS moves it back five more yards.”
Johnson said she is upset with CPS’ lack of communication with parents and community members about the possible closings.
“(CPS) has been very closed-mouth,” she said.
“They gave us no clear answer and danced around the issues,” she said.
Johnson said she doesn’t understand why CPS won’t provide resources to the struggling schools instead of shutting them down.
“If we fail, then come back and close our schools,” she said. “At least give us the resources first.”
She said CPS plans to close schools and then provide resources to those that remain open.
“If you are going to close a school, then give resources – it’s by design,” Johnson said.
Truss said community members and parents concerned that Austin schools may close should contact CPS. Feedback to CPS can be submitted here.
Johnson added parents have to be “proactive versus reactive.”
Parents need to come together to fight for their children’s schools, she said.
“That’s the only thing we can do.”