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CPS Plans To Shutter 2 Elementary Schools, Phase Out 2 High Schools

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CPS Classroom

A classroom in the Chicago Public Schools. (Credit: CBS)

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Updated 11/30/11 – 8:31 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) – Chicago Public Schools officials are planning to close two elementary schools next fall and phase out two high schools as part of a major overhaul of schools in Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s first year leading the district.

As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard will ask the Chicago Board of Education to shut down Simon Guggenheim Elementary School in Englewood and Florence B. Price Elementary School in North Kenwood. He’s also pushing for phase-outs of Dyett High School in the Washington Park neighborhood and Richard T. Crane Technical Preparatory High School on the Near West Side.

Phase outs mean the schools would not admit any new freshmen and the school would shut down once the last class of existing students graduates.

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Guggenheim was targeted for closure because three out of five students test below standards. Price is in the bottom 8 percent of all district schools.

At Dyett, two out of three of students don’t graduate – far worse than the district average. And Crane has been on academic probation for 10 consecutive years.

Local School Council member Jitu Brown told CBS 2’s Mike Parker that it’s obvious the school system has given up on Dyett.

“To be candid, we believe that Chicago Public Schools … by their policies, show that low-income African American children do not matter,” he said.

Dyett sophomore O’Sha Dancy wondered, “Why should a student have to be forced to go to another community high school when there’s a community high school already here?”

Another student, Pierre Williams said he worries about clashes between the pupils at Phillips and the new kids from Dyett.

“They’re coming out of their area to go to that area and that’s just mixing up violence into the community,” he said.

Asked about the decision to close the two grade schools and phase out the two high schools, Brizard said, “It’s a dance. It’s a delicate balance.”

That’s Brizard described the difficult process of trying to decide which public schools should stay open and which should close next year.

Asked why only Guggenheim and Price were targeted for immediate closure, Brizard said, “We did this analysis neighborhood by neighborhood, making sure that if we have to close a school, we have to move kids to a better environment. We could not find better environments in every case.”

Brizard said that’s one reason more schools aren’t on that closure list and a reason Crane and Dyett high schools will be phased out.

It’s another step, he said, of trying to improve a dismal public school system; something three other school chiefs have tried and failed to do before him.

“I stand on the shoulders of giants and that’s the way I look at the work,” Brizard said.

But the Chicago Teacher’s Union said standing isn’t the same as talking to them about what CPS wants to do to make the schools better. CTU President Karen Lewis said the dozens of community meetings – about what works and what doesn’t – don’t really count.

She said CTU officials attended those meetings, but “those are not consultation. That’s not collaboration, that’s not in the process of decision-making.”

Brizard stood by the district’s procedures, saying “We’re doing as much as we can to invite them in to be part of our conversation, but ultimately our focus is really on children.”

The proposed closings and phase-outs are not a done deal, yet. The school board has to vote on those, as well as a plan for “turnarounds” at 10 other schools that would result in hundreds of teacher layoffs. That vote is expected to happen in February.

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