Brentano Elementary On Closure List Despite Parents' Best Efforts

By Victoria Johnson on February 15, 2013 7:44am 

LOGAN SQUARE — Despite efforts by parents and activists, Brentano Elementary in Logan Square has wound up on the list of 129 schools CPS may recommend for closure.

Before they even knew whether it would be on the list, Brentano supporters delivered a petition to CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleading that their school be spared.

The largely Hispanic and low-income school has two things stacked against it that made supporters feel the need to be so proactive: It is more than half empty, according to CPS standards, and it is on academic probation with the lowest performance rating — Level 3.

Kate Kindleberger, the prospective Brentano parent and Local School Council member who delivered the petition to CPS, said she is a prime example of why the data on Brentano doesn't tell the whole story.

With a 2-year-old son and another on the way, she doesn't think the 2010 census numbers show what the neighborhood will look like in a few short years.

"We've had a play group since January, and in three weeks we've had 22 kids between 0 and 3 who live in Logan Square come to this," she said. "It's just such overwhelming evidence of this enormous demand for our neighborhood school."

She also points to higher-than-average ISAT test scores in reading and science, as well as an "organized" rating from the University of Chicago's 5Essentials survey, indicating the school is well-organized for improvement.

"I feel like they're making decisions based on a spreadsheet rather than looking at the neighborhood and the future of the neighborhood," she said.

Fabiola Zumba has two daughters at Brentano and said their lives would be much more difficult if the school closed.

"It'd be terrible because we live right around here," she said.

She also wonders whether other schools in the area would have space to take on all the Brentano kids. The nearest schools, Goethe and Logandale, are both near CPS' "ideal" enrollment.

When asked what where her daughters will go if Brentano closes, Zumba just shrugged and said, "I don't know."

And that's part of the problem, Kindleberger said. Parents just aren't getting enough answers from CPS.

"It's just sort of baffling, and feels very disempowering," she said.

This week CPS launched its second round of "community engagement" meetings to further discuss possible closures now that the list has been whittled down to 129 schools.

The next meeting for the Fullerton Network, which includes Brentano, will be at 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at Armitage Baptist Church, 2451 N. Kedzie Ave.

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