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CPS Says No High Schools Will Close

By DNAinfo Staff on January 18, 2013 12:47pm

 Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she will spend a few weeks determining what schools might close.
Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said she will spend a few weeks determining what schools might close.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools will not consider closing any high schools as a part of its looming closure process, the district announced Friday.

Additionally, the closure of high-performing schools is off the table.

"The safety and security of our students must be a top priority in this process, in addition to ensuring that we keep our high-performing schools available as an option for every family in our district," CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.

The decision was made in response to a report released last week that said closing high schools could increase violence and tension for students mixing with others from different neighborhoods. 

The Commission on School Utilization, made of up eight private citizens, clergy and politicians, was created by Byrd-Bennett in the wake of the controversy over proposals to close underutilized schools this school year. The commission met with community members, school staff, researchers and Chicago Teachers Union leaders to arrive at its initial recommendations.

In a letter sent to the commission obtained by the Sun-Times Thursday, Byrd-Bennett did not rule out the closure of schools with more than 600 students or other schools that may be "on the rise" but not high-performing just yet. 

Byrd-Bennett indicated that the list of school closures will come in a few weeks and at once after her team considers other recommendations made by the commission.

Those critical of the upcoming closures say excluding high schools from the process isn't enough, as shuttered elementary schools can destabilize communities as well.
"The thing is if you destabilize the elementary schools, these students won't be ready for high school," said Jitu Brown, education organizer for the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

On Feb. 13, the school district will begin a round of community meetings with a preliminary list of schools that may be closed. A final list would be culled further from that list and likely will be announced in March.

“We cannot release schools on a piecemeal basis," Byrd-Bennett said in a statement. "Our school communities deserve better than that and we have an obligation to be thoughtful and deliberate in creating a list of schools so they can provide specific feedback as part of our engagement process.”

Also Friday, the district announced that all schools will have the same calendar beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. All students will start their year on Aug. 26.