LINCOLN SQUARE — The grassroots education advocacy group Raise Your Hand has delivered a scathing indictment against Chicago Public Schools' plan to close more than 50 elementary schools.
The report, "40 Terrible Decisions on School Actions," was posted online and given to the Board of Education at its meeting this week.
Wendy Katten, executive director of Raise Your Hand, took care to note that the reference to "40 terrible decisions" does not signal support for the closing of the targeted schools omitted from the report.
"This is just what we've been able to cover thus far," she wrote on Raise Your Hand's website.
Among the alleged "terrible decisions": sending students to "welcoming" schools that are on academic probation (counter to CPS' insistence that students would all be sent to better-performing schools), concerns about overcrowding and the potential for violence.
In response to the report, CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll issued a statement Thursday, saying: "No longer can CPS accept the status quo of students trapped in underutilized and under-resourced schools that are cheating our students out of the supports they need to succeed in life.
"By consolidating these underutilized schools, we can redirect resources to make necessary investments in welcoming schools like air conditioning, computer and science labs, central libraries, increased investments in technology to ensure students have better access to the quality, 21st Century education they deserve."
The Raise Your Hand report provides first-hand accounts from walk-throughs of 22 schools on the closing list, research into enrollment and performance statistics and feedback gleaned from dozens of community meetings.
Some of the report's findings include:
• Garvey Elementary has "no empty rooms, a/c in every room, science lab, great programs. School has been on probation for 7 months out of 39 years. Moving to a school that has history of being on probation for 10 years."
• Ericson Elementary, a magnet school that's also on the closing list, has two science labs and three computer rooms. Class size, with respect to underutilization, has been capped at 25 students, similar to the practice at other magnets. "Ericson has a wait list and can take more students," according to the report.
• Mollison Elementary, itself on probation, is expected to receive students from Overton, which is on the closing list. "CPS states Mollison has room for 303 students and Overton has 431 students. How will overcrowding, and 431 additional students help Mollison move off probation?" says the report.
• In the Lincoln Square area, Raise Your Hand questioned the merging of Stockton and Courtenay elementary schools, with Stockton slated for closure and Courtenay to take over leadership of the joint student enrollment at Stockton's campus.
According to "40 Terrible Decisions," both schools have large special education populations, which CPS failed to account for in its space-utilization formula. Overcrowding will result, said Raise Your Hand.
• At Trumbull, another school slated for closure, the "utilization rate [is] completely off" given the school's 37 percent special ed enrollment. Deemed underutilized by CPS, Trumbull actually has just one empty room, which was in the process of being converted into a teachers' lounge, Raise Your Hand reported after a walkthrough.
Community hearings on school closings continue through May 2. The Board of Education is set to vote on the proposed plan May 22.