Trumbull and Stockton meet the initial criteria created by a school closings commission, an analysis by the Chicago Sun-Times indicates.
Both Stockton and Trumbull are considered underutilized schools by Chicago Public Schools. Both schools are considered level 3 schools: schools with the lowest performance scores. Stockton supporters say Stockton has a large population of itinerant students. Stockton supporters say many of these students are homeless or are temporarily using the many social services available in Uptown, create a statistical impression of poor performance at Stockton.
The Horner Park meeting also heard from advocates for Stockton who accused the school district of mishandling annex building space in its calculation. Stockton has a large annex and is concerned the space was considered a negative for the school. While CPS says it does not use annex space and other enriched spaces to punish schools the perception persists that investing into enriched spaces results in CPS punishing those schools.
Public testimony at the Horner Park meeting had said that community investments in enrichment rooms, used for art, music, special education and computer training for example, adversely affected a school’s utilization ratio. The commission’s report says it is possible that setting aside just 23-24 percent of classrooms for enrichment is insufficient. The commission will examine the charge that investments in enrichment facilities cause utilization rates to fall, it said in the report.
Trumbull parents point to a dysfunctional Local School Council last year. They say the community has rallied behind Trumbull with investments and other support. That energy will be lost as teachers flee closing schools, they say.
The commission, in its report, recognized that teacher flight from closing schools is an issue to be considered.
Among other Ravenswood area schools Blaine and Coonley are considered overcrowded Level 1 schools. Hamilton and Chappell are underutilized Level 1 schools. McPherson is considered an underutilized Level 2 school. Courtney is considered an efficiently used level 2 school. All the other area elementary schools are considered Level 1 and efficiently utilized (Budlong, Waters, Ravenswood, Bell and Audubon. (p17) (p26)
The eight member School Utilization Commission was named by Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett to make recommendations on how to address excess capacity in the district. Byrd-Bennett had expected the commission to name schools to close, media reports indicate. However, the commission has said it will only issue recommendations on the policy to use regarding school closures.
The commission said it will issue a final report in early March. A list of school closings must be published by March 31 with a final vote by May 31.
The commission said closures would need to meet several tests:
- a minimum disruption to students and communities
- safety of the affected students is ensured
- students are moved to better performing schools
- better schools have better resources
- better schools have better facilities
- the district is open and transparent about the information and processes used to close schools
The report issued by the commission notes that communities are skeptical of the CPS calculations. “No way, we were told, could there be 100,000 empty seats. Parents from school after underutilized school told us that while the school itself may have been under filled, their children’s classrooms were too crowded, bursting at their overstuffed seams.”
The commission report goes on to recognize the realty masks a paradox: “The sad truth is that, paradoxically, underutilized schools also have some of the most overcrowded classrooms in the city.
“In underutilized schools, the staff is too small to meet the wide range of student needs,” the report says.
“Principals in underutilized schools,” the report says, “are often forced to make difficult choices. These principals also have fewer community partners able to support and buttress their work in the schools.”
The report called on the district not to close schools that though underutilized, were “vibrant hubs of community activity.” The report addressed a key concern of many teachers and residents, closing a school, then assigning it to a charter operation.
“Closing a school for underutilization, only to subsequently repurpose the facility to house a charter school, would be a violation of the community’s trust,” the report noted.
The report also took CPS to task, noting “in previous rounds of school closings in Chicago… students… move from one low-performing school to another low-performing school.
School Utilization Table
Performance Level (1 is best)
|Lake View HS||Efficient||1|