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CPS Unveils Plan To Consolidate, Close Schools

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Chicago Public Schools

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Updated 03/23/11 – 4:46 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Facing a $700 million budget shortfall next school year, Chicago Public Schools officials have proposed closing eight underused schools by consolidating them into six others.

As CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reports, if the CPS plan is approved by the Board of Education next month, hundreds of students would be moved to new schools next year.

In a move to address sagging enrollment at some schools and the growing needs of others, CPS Interim Chief Executive Officer Terry Mazany has announced proposals to consolidate eight schools into six others this fall.

The move would mean eight schools would lose their identities and principals and as many as 100 teachers would be displaced.

Enrollment at many of the targeted schools has “dropped to a level that is inadequate to maintain a quality education,’‘ Mazany said.

One, for example, is using just 8 percent of its total building and another only 10 percent, though both share their facilities with other schools, according to Chicago Board of Education data.

At Tilton Elementary the plan is to phase out the school by gradually reducing the student body by one grade level per year. Starting this fall, Tilton would stop accepting kindergarten students.

Tilton also would transfer its attendance boundary to nearby Marconi Elementary and eventually lose its principal.

For other schools, the shutdown plan won’t be as gradual.

Carpenter Elementary, which has little more than 100 students, would be merged into Talcott Elementary.

“I’m gonna miss that school when it closes down,” Carpenter 5th grader Dontrell Massey said.

School officials said the consolidation plan is needed to address under-enrollment problems at Carpenter and other schools.

CPS spokeswoman Monique Bond said it’s understandable that many parents are upset “Because any time there is disruption, or anytime there is change, that’s hard to accept.”

The proposed consolidation plan will affect more than 15 schools and more than 3,000 students. As many as 100 teachers and principals could be displaced. The Chicago Teachers Union is fighting the plan.

CTU President Karen Lewis said the plan violates a promise by former CPS Chief Ron Huberman to give six months’ notice of such consolidation plans.

“The board has a moral obligation to honor its promises and stop these consolidations and closings. It’s a matter of trust,” Lewis said.

But others disagree.

Pullman neighborhood resident Joyce Chapman said some of the schools being consolidated are so bad they should be closed.

Carpenter parents Kieona Massey and Diana Lazquano said that might be true, but they don’t believe that’s the reality at carpenter.

“Help the school instead of ya’ll taking over the school,” Kieona Massey said, adding that she thinks her kids will be hurt if the school closes.

Lazquano said, “For me, it would be sad.”

Their kids said it would be sad for them, too.

An initial proposal also called for Cather Elementary students to be sent to Beidler Elementary. But teachers said that after Mazany walked through Beidler Tuesday, shaking hands and visiting classrooms, Beidler staff members were shocked to learn that their students are now the ones who are supposed to vacate the building. Their newly planned transfer to Cather will free up Beidler — and a nearby campus park that just recently broke ground — for Urban Prep Charter High-East Garfield Park, which needs more space.

Mazany said Beidler is a better setting for the boys-only high school than Cather, which currently shares its building with Urban Prep. Plus, Mazany said, “The community needs a good high school.”

Also under the proposal, three small high schools in the old Bowen High building will be folded into a fourth small high school at the same location, New Millennium.

Under other proposed consolidations, three elementary schools that already started phase-outs and have stopped accepting new kids will be absorbed into three other schools.

Carpenter will be merged into Talcott. Schneider will be folded into Jahn. Andersen will be swallowed up by LaSalle Magnet II, and all its kids will be guaranteed LaSalle II seats, Mazany said.

Avondale Elementary and Logandale Middle will stay in their buildings but form one prekindergarten- to eighth-grade school. The goal, officials said, is to even out overcrowding at Avondale.

The CPS plans have not been finalized. They will be debated in the coming weeks and then a final list of proposed closures and consolidations will be presented to the Board of Education about one month from now.

Mazany said he wants the additional input of the community meetings promised by Huberman, and plans may change because of them. After they conclude, Board members are expected to vote on the proposals late next month, only a few weeks before Rahm Emanuel assumes the mayor’s chair and the ability to name his own schools chief.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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