CHICAGO (CBS) — Mayor Rahm Emanuel was reacting cautiously to word that an advisory commission on school closings might not recommend closing very many public schools.

According to published reports, the Commission on School Utilization might recommend closing as few as 15 underutilized school buildings, fearing that a large number of school closings might cause too much upheaval.

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WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports the mayor said any actions on school closings must balance educational needs with the district’s economic reality.

“One of the reasons we have to deal with this is because we have schools that are not fully occupied, let alone are less than 40 percent or 50 percent occupied. We cannot give our kids a high-quality education, given how spread thin we are,” Emanuel said Wednesday.

There had been earlier reports that Chicago Public Schools officials were considering the closures of as many as 120 schools.

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CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett formed the commission to study the district’s schools, and recommend which ones should be closed due to low enrollment or poor performance.

The mayor said he’s looking forward to seeing the commission’s final report, but he also sounded a cautionary note about the need for some schools to close.

“We have 100,000 fewer children. I have to be sensitive to its impact. On the other hand, you also have to be sensitive to the impact when there are fewer kids,” he said. “The ability to give them a quality education when you’re spread that thin is not capable. So we have to balance those needs and we will do it.”

The commission’s preliminary report earlier this month recommended not closing any high schools or any of the highest-performing – or “Level 1” – schools. Byrd-Bennett has agreed to those two recommendations, and the mayor said he also agrees.

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The commission’s final report is not due until March, and CPS has until March 31 to produce a final list of schools that will be closed.