CHICAGO (CBS) — The stage is set for a showdown between the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union, over the district’s plan to close several South Side schools.
Wednesday morning, the Chicago Board of Education was holding its first meeting since CPS laid out its plans for school changes next year, including closing four Englewood schools.
Before the 10:30 a.m. meeting, several elected officials, parents, students, and teachers plan to protest at CPS headquarters.
CPS plans to close Harper, Hope, Robeson, and TEAM Englewood high schools in June. All four schools are under-enrolled, and the money saved by closing them will be used to help create a new $85 million high school for the Englewood neighborhood.
However, the new Englewood high school won’t be completed until the fall of 2019, forcing about 330 students to find another school to attend next school year.
“I think that’s a bad idea, because we knew each other all our life, you feel me? Then, now that we’ve got to be split up, it hurts,” Robeson student Amarrion Head said last week after learning the school will close at the end of the year.
Robeson classmate Dyshon Smith said they have built a strong student-teacher relationship at their school, and that will be lost if they must split up for a year while waiting for a new school to be finished.
“Everybody in this school knows each other,” he said.
Protesters have said the district’s plan is an attack on black and Latino students who will be forced to leave Englewood to attend a school outside their neighborhood next year.
CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said enrollment is so low at the four Englewood schools facing closure, “kids are only offered the basic minimum.”
“They don’t have access to advanced placement courses, they don’t have access to all the sports and after-school activities, and all the other things that make up a rich high school experience,” she said.
Cederrall Petties, principal at Earle STEM Elementary School in Englewood, said he’s excited about the plans for the new Englewood high school.
“We will have a state-of-the-art high school built in our community that will afford our students with the opportunity to continue their educational experience,” he said.
The Chicago Teachers Union has said the district would be better served providing more money for the four schools it plans to close.
“This is an outrage,” said CTU staff coordinator Jackson Potter. “You can’t begrudge people for wanting something better, but that’s precisely why we need to invest in schools like Robeson, TEAM Englewood, Harper. We can’t abandon Englewood.”
The district’s plan to close schools next year has not been finalized. The school board likely will vote on the plan in February.