McClellan School Waits for Word on CPS Closings

By Casey Cora on February 11, 2013 7:28pm 

 McClellan Elementary principal Joseph Shoffner at a recent local school meeting.
McClellan Elementary principal Joseph Shoffner at a recent local school meeting.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

BRIDGEPORT ­— While CPS leaders have acknowledged a miscalculation of the number of classrooms at McClellan Elementary, faculty members say the district still hasn't made changes to the school's utilization rate.

And that has parents and faculty at the school, 3527 S. Wallace Ave., on ice as CPS prepares for Wednesday’s expected release of a preliminary list of schools targeted for closure.

“We’re trying not to upset the culture of the school before Wednesday. But it will be upset,” principal Joseph Shoffner said at Monday’s local school council meeting. “We’ve got to be real about what could happen.”

CPS is preparing to shutter upward of 100 schools to help close a budget deficit projected at $400 million and faces a state-imposed deadline at the end of March to announce the closings for the fall.

The district labeled the McClellan as underutilized, but faculty members said CPS counted three small rooms dedicated to autistic students as regular classrooms, which altered the utilization rate.

"By their count, those classrooms should have 90-something kids there. That would be impossible," Shoffner said while showing a reporter around the school.

After an appeal by school leaders, CPS responded with a letter saying it was “very much” taking the school's concerns under advisement. The letter, from the district's office of portfolio management, was read aloud at Monday's meeting.

Still, the district hasn't updated its online database showing utilization rates.

“It’s kind of a mixed message. They didn’t change our utilization rate but acknowledged the challenges of our autism program,” Shoffner said.

Shoffner said closing McClellan would be particularly traumatic for the school’s autistic students, some of whom used to attend Abbott Elementary, closed by CPS in 2010.

About one-fourth of McClellan's enrollment is comprised of special education students.

 McClellan Elementary School, 3527 S. Wallace in Bridgeport, is considered underutliized by Chicago Public Schools.
McClellan Elementary School, 3527 S. Wallace in Bridgeport, is considered underutliized by Chicago Public Schools.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

A second round of community feedback forums on the school closings kicks off Wednesday.

Shoffner said the McClellan community will be there for the Pershing Network forum — scheduled for Feb. 21 at the Fuller Park Field House — regardless of whether or not the school is on the closings list.

And if McClellan is on the list?

“Then we fight like hell,” he said.

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