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CPS School Closures Could Top 50 Schools, Source Says

By  Mark Konkol and Ted Cox | March 20, 2013 6:28pm | Updated on March 21, 2013 8:15am

 A young supporter of Graham Elementary School at a CPS forum on potential closings in the Pershing Network.
A young supporter of Graham Elementary School at a CPS forum on potential closings in the Pershing Network.
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DNAinfo/Casey Cora

CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools plans to close as many as 55 elementary schools to help close a projected $400 million budget deficit, a source told DNAinfo.com Chicago Wednesday night.

A source who had discussions with Mayor Rahm Emanuel's Administration and top CPS officials said Wednesday that "50 or 55 schools, probably under 60" are on the list to close.

Schools Chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett has until March 31 to forward her final list of school closures to the board of education. A vote on the closings could come as soon as the April 3 board meeting.

Byrd-Bennett said in a statement late Wednesday she would "soon" make her recommendations so students can be moved into higher performing schools so they "will have all the things they need to learn and succeed.”

“I believe that every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high quality education that prepares them to succeed in life, but for too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed in the classroom because they are in underutilized, under resourced schools," she said.

Emanuel's spokeswoman Sarah Hamilton declined comment.

Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said in a statement that closing that many schools would send the public school system "into chaos."

"This city cannot destroy that many schools. It will send our district into chaos,” Lewis said in a statement issued Wednesday evening. “These actions will put our students' safety and academics at risk and will further destabilize our neighborhoods."

Teachers Union members have scheduled a rally to protest the closings for March 27 at Daley Plaza.

Ald. Howard Brookins Jr. (21st) said he has been informed that two elementary schools in his ward, Garrett A. Morgan and Mahalia Jackson, are on the final school closure list.

Jackson Elementary — the only school in the area to offer special education classes for deaf and hearing-impaired students — might be able to make a compelling argument for staying open, Brookins said.

"I don't think this is a done deal. I take Byrd-Bennett at her word that she's going to have another round of hearings," Brookins said. "When it comes time to make a decision I think she will reconsider some of the schools that remain on the list."

Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) said the school closures will "have a devastating impact on the whole city."

"There was really no back and forth" in the entire process of community engagement, he said. "A real conversation is when you go back and forth. There was none of that. … That's the really disappointing part. … They're rushing through this thing."

Several other aldermen reached Wednesday evening said they had not been notified of any closures in their districts.

"I'd be the last one they'd tell," said a South Side ward boss who expects CPS plans to close three schools in her ward.