NEAR WEST SIDE — A top CPS administrator apologized for not properly communicating recent changes in school schedules in a letter to parents Thursday.
Herald "Chip" Johnson, chief of Chicago Public School's Network 6 schools — which includes the Near West Side, Downtown and Near North and South Sides — said the move to modify the schools' bell schedule was needed to cut costs, but admitted that the changes were not properly communicated to parents and staff.
"Unfortunately, these changes were not properly communicated to all Chicago Public School parents, teachers, principals and Local School Council members and we apologize for the changes that were caused because of that," Johnson wrote.
Johnson said in the letter that the the schedule changes will generate more than $5 million in savings — an amount significantly less than was previously announced by the district — and keep cuts out of the classroom "and protect the academic gains that have been made during the past few years."
"Based on feedback that I have heard, I understand that the new start time may inconvenience some families and it may also be more convenient for others," he continued. "For this year, the decision has been made as part of an effort to help address the financial crisis facing CPS."
In mid-July, less than two months before the first day of school, CPS announced that it would be adjusting the school bell schedule for the 2015-2016 school year for some schools in order to "streamline" bus operations.
At that time, CPS officials initially confirmed plans to change the bell schedules at 60 CPS high schools and 17 elementary schools, but later announced that 82 total schools would shift schedules by as much as an hour for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year.
At some affected high schools, start times will shift to 9 a.m. and affected elementary schools, for the most part, will shift to an earlier start time of 7:30 or 7:45 a.m.
However, on Monday, CPS officials backtracked, saying 34 of those schools will keep the same start and dismissal times as last year after parents and principals voiced their concerns.
“By engaging principals and learning about the many unintended consequences the changing bell times caused, we decided to rescind those changes that had a negative impact on schools," board President Frank Clark said in a statement.
On Wednesday, Joyce Kenner, principal at Whitney Young Magnet Academy on the Near West Side, announced the district had dropped its push to have the school start at 9 a.m. and said the school would start at 8 a.m., as it did in past years, for all students. The move came one week after the principal told parents the school would have a staggered start time for the 2015-2016 school year.
CPS said the bell and bus changes would save the district as much as $13.5 million, but now officials say the savings will be about $5 million.
As DNAinfo previously reported, CPS also plans to cut at least 280 bus stops throughout the city, but the school system was not releasing a list of consolidated stops until "later this summer." School starts Sept. 8.
The school district's Network 6 includes schools located on the Near North Side, Near West Side, Loop, South Loop, Bridgeport and Chinatown.
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