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Schools Commission Says Hirsch High Should Stay Open Despite Poor Marks

By Wendell Hutson | January 14, 2013 11:32am
 Hirsch High School on the South Side is currently on academic probation and could possibly close next school year as a result. 
Hirsch High School on the South Side is currently on academic probation and could possibly close next school year as a result. 
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DNAinfo/Wendell Hutson

GRAND CROSSING — Hirsch Metropolitan and many other academically challenged public high schools could still face closure — despite a recent report recommending that no high schools be closed next school year.

The South Side high school, located at 7740 S. Ingleside Ave., is currently on academic probation and underutilized based on space, according to Chicago Public Schools data. There are 371 students enrolled, even though the school can accommodate 700 students, the data shows. Its graduation rate is 60 percent, its dropout rate is 22 percent, and 76 percent of its predominately black students come from low-income households.

And while the school has a strong attendance rate of 81 percent, an eye-popping 3.4 percent of its students met or exceeded the Prairie State Achievements Examination — compared with a CPS average of 31.5 percent.

Despite the school's poor performance on the examination and its probationary status — making it a target for closure — an independent commission created by Chicago Public Schools, the Commission on School Utilization, has recommended that Hirsch and no other public high schools face the ax. 

The commssion is made up of a group of activists, parents and other advocates formed by CPS to better engage the community on education issues.

Officials with CPS — the nation's third-largest school district with over 400,000 students and more than 600 schools — said it would review the recommendations by the Commission on School Utilization, but stopped short of saying it would keep all high schools open.

"Barbara Byrd-Bennett (chief executive officer for Chicago Public) is still in the process of reviewing the Commission's report, and in the coming days will be providing the Commission a formal response to their recommendations," said Marielle Sainvilus, a spokeswoman for CPS.

Safety was among the chief reasons the commission gave for recommending all high schools be kept open regardless of its academic standing.

“Children should not have to travel through dangerous territory simply to get to and from school,” the report stated. “Threats to student safety by intermixing students from different neighborhoods are greatest for high school students.”

Shinka Taylor, 46, whose 16-year old son attends Hirsch, said the school has created a recipe for failure.

"It needs to close and fast. My niece went to Hirsch and did not learn a thing," Taylor recalled. "By the time she graduated, she barely knew how to write a complete sentence or spell seventh-grade words, even though she graduated with a 3.1 grade-point average."

Hirsch Principal Afina Lockhart was unavailable for comment.