Chicago could close 80 schools by next year

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As the deadline for a final school closing list approaches, a new report indicates that CPS could handle closing up to five times the number of schools  it has shuttered in any previous year.

In the final report of the Commission on School Utilization, an appointed commission states that CPS “has the capacity to consolidate approximately 80 schools.”

CPS must announce by March 31 which schools face closure next school year. Initially, the district identified 330 schools on the chopping block; that list has been narrowed down to 129 schools, seven of which are in Austin.

In a press release, Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said, the report “further illustrates the need for a full moratorium on school closings, turnarounds and other actions.”

But CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the report shows that space utilization is a real problem.

“Their report definitively states that the district does, in fact, have a utilization problem,” Byrd-Bennett said in a response statement to the report.

Lewis called the reports findings outrageous.

“Given CPS’ history, there is no way it has the capacity to shut down 13 percent of our entire school district without mass chaos,” she said.

The school closings, which mainly target the South and West sides, would help make a dent in the $1 billion deficit CPS officials say the district faces come summer.

The commission, hand-picked by the new CEO, also suggested to Byrd-Bennett that thoughtful community plans that have been developed “should weigh heavily in any decisions” and that school actions are justifiable only if the students are moved into “better educational environments.”


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