PORTAGE PARK — City officials will dismantle the cellphone tower that soars over Portage Park Elementary School, scrambling the school's budget.
The tower is being dismantled as a result of the merger between U.S. Cellular and Sprint, according to a Chicago Public Schools spokesman.
The tower had meant an extra $60,000 for the Far Northwest Side neighborhood school, officials said. Last year, CPS officials reduced that amount by half, angering parents and Local School Council officials who agreed to allow the tower to be built several years ago to boost the school's bottom line.
Heather Cherone chats about the cellphone tower at Portage Park Elementary School:
Sprint independently decided to decommission the tower, which had been operated by U.S. Cellular. Other cell towers on Chicago Public Schools might also be taken down, school district officials said.
U.S. Cellular sold its Chicago operation to Sprint in 2012, according to news reports.
Principal Maureen Ready did not return a phone call seeking comment about the dismantling of the cell tower.
Last year, Portage Park Elementary School had approximately $900,000 cut from its budget as part of a district-wide shift to a budgeting system that earmarks money for schools based on the number of students, rather than the number of teaching positions.
While CPS officials say the new system will give principals more flexibility and replace an outdated formula, critics contend that it has made it almost impossible to offer students a well-rounded education.
In response to the outcry, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett delayed the full implementation of the new system to head off another round of budget cuts at schools that had lower-than-projected enrollment.
Had the new system gone into effect, Portage Park Elementary, 5330 W. Berteau Ave., would have lost another $60,000 last fall, according to CPS records.
Next year, each school will get about $4,700 for each student in kindergarten through third grade and $4,400 for students in fourth through eighth grade, slightly more than last year.
Portage Park Elementary School is projected to have 1,030 students next year, approximately 50 fewer than the enrollment listed on the district's website, school officials said.
Enrollment at the school this spring was approximately 1,000 students, school officials said.
However, enrollment at the school last fall was 1,032, according to district records used for student-based budgeting.