CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Board of Education was expected to vote Wednesday on a plan to close four Englewood high schools, but some parents and teachers haven’t given up their fight to keep them open.
The vote comes after Chicago Public Schools officials made some concessions earlier this month to gradually phase out three of the schools, rather than close them immediately at the end of this school year.
In December, CPS officials announced plans to close Harper, Hope, Robeson, and TEAM Englewood high schools in June. The district has said all four schools are under-enrolled, and the money saved by closing them will be used to help create the new Englewood High School, which would be built on the site of Robeson, and open in 2019.
Earlier this month, CPS Chief Executive Officer Janice Jackson announced, while Robeson would still close at the end of the year to make way for construction of the new Englewood High School, the district will delay closing Harper, Hope, and Team Englewood for three years. Any existing students at those three schools would be allowed to finish their high school careers at their current schools if they choose.
Despite the decision to keep those three schools open for the next few years, some critics were still planning to protest ahead of Wednesday’s school board vote on the consolidation plan.
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union have said the entire plan should be scrapped.
“We’re glad that Chicago Public Schools modified their plan. Their original plan was to close all four Englewood schools immediately. That was a real disaster when they did it in 2013. It actually didn’t save enrollment. What happened was families, students wound up leaving the system entirely. So we’re struggling to keep people coming to Chicago Public Schools,” CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey said.
CPS officials have said enrollment at the four existing high schools in Englewood is so low, students are offered only the basic minimum classes and activities.
“They don’t have access to advanced placement courses. They don’t have access to all the sports, school activities, and all the other things that make up a rich high school experience,” she said.
A group of students and community activists have called for the school board to cancel Wednesday’s vote. They pointed to a Chicago Sun-Times investigation that found CPS paid for people to speak in favor of the school closures, calling it fake or illegitimate community input.
The new $85 million Englewood High School would be built on the site of Robeson, and would open in 2019. It would start with a freshman-only class, and eventually would draw students from all over Englewood.