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Only Therapeutic School in CPS Won't Have Students, But 'Not Closing': CPS

By Joe Ward | August 13, 2015 7:03pm
 Montefiore School for kids with emotional distress will have an assistant principal, but no students.
Montefiore School for kids with emotional distress will have an assistant principal, but no students.
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DNAinfo/Joe Ward

CHICAGO — Though it will have an assistant principal, a clerk and a line item in Chicago Public Schools' budget, Moses Montefiore Specialty Elementary won’t have any kids enrolled this school year.

The school district’s lone therapeutic school for kids with emotional instability will not enroll students in the 2015 school year, CPS confirmed to DNAinfo Chicago Thursday. (The news was first reported by Catalyst Chicago Wednesday night.) Instead, the district said it will move kids back to neighborhood schools or get “the support they need in other educational environments,” according to Bill McCaffrey, CPS spokesman.

Though no lessons will be taught this school year, the Near West Side school remains open, school officials said. An assistant principal and a clerk will work in the school, the minimal staffing needed to keep a school open.

The school's 10 teachers were notified Monday that they were to be laid off, according to Chicago Teachers Union representative Martin Ritter.

Officially closing the school would mean that Mayor Rahm Emanuel would have violated his self-imposed moratorium on school closures within five years of the mass school closing in 2013. Ritter said the move to keep kids out of Montefiore means Emanuel is breaking his promise, despite the school still being on the books.

“This disinvestment in Moses Montefiore ensures the school’s imminent closure, a violation of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s promise to the Illinois legislature of a five-year moratorium on school closings,” Ritter said. “Montefiore … is among the latest casualties of CPS sabotage.”

CPS would not comment on the long-term outlook for Montefiore, 1310 S. Ashland Ave., only to say that the school remains open.

"Chicago Public Schools is committed to ensuring all students have access to the resources they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond, and the students who previously attended Montefiore are prime examples," McCaffrey said. "After being reviewed by Individualized Education Program teams that include parents, teachers and administrators, the students are successfully moving to neighborhood schools or getting the support they need in other educational environments.”

In budget numbers released in July, Montefiore was slated to lose $168,555 in funding this year — a 23 percent cut — and increase enrollment by 3 students. CPS did not say when the decision to move kids out of Montefiore was made, only that teachers and parents were consulted.

Montefiore had 24 students last year. Last year was Montefiore’s first as the only therapeutic school in the district. It absorbed kids from Near North Elementary School, a former West Town specialty school that was one of the 50 schools shuttered in 2013.

The 24 students enrolled in Montefiore last year each worked with a "Individualized Education Program" team to determine if the student should return to a neighborhood school or another specialty school in or outside the district, a CPS source said. Some graduated out of elementary school and enrolled in high school.

Montefiore was the source of a local controversy and national curiosity when it was profiled by Vice Media in an eight-part documentary titled “Last Chance High” (though it is an elementary school).

CPS never signed off on the documentary, which was seen by some as violating the privacy of Montefiore students.

The documentary made for bad publicity for the school and the district, after it garnered coverage that called Montefiore the “worst school in Chicago.

“They already a statistic,” said an art teacher not identified by name in the Vice News documentary. “Life is already determined for them. It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”

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