Though Chicago Public Schools officials have until the end of the month, teachers said a list of schools to be closed could come out by Thursday evening.
The Chicago Sun-Times on Wednesday reported CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett would announce Thursday that “about 50 elementary schools” will close. CPS spokeswoman Robyn Ziegler would not confirm a Thursday announcement but said the “about 50” number reported by the Sun-Times was inaccurate. In a statement, Byrd-Bennett said only that her recommendations on which schools to close would be coming “soon.”
“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.
Teachers said Thursday the city has begun informing principals and local officials about which public schools it intends to close under a contentious plan that opponents say will disproportionately affect minority students in the nation’s third largest school district.
At Trumbull Elementary School, a parent and school board member confirmed to NBC Chicago the school is closing and a letter will go home to parents tonight informing them.
Ald. Michael Chandler said principals received word this morning if their school is shutting down.
At Lafayette Elementary in Humboldt Park, the principal read teachers a letter from the district Thursday saying the school is among those it plans to close, said teacher Rosemary Maurello.
The message said a final decision would be made in May after more community meetings are held and budget plans are reviewed. But Maurello said letters and information packets were already being sent to parents, and the district’s message to teachers included a mention of specific plans to move the Lafayette students to another school about 10 blocks away.
“It sounds like a done deal to me,” Maurello said.
Byrd-Bennett made the rounds on morning television Wednesday, trying to soften the blow to parents upset by school closures by announcing investment plans for the remaining “welcoming schools.” As she mentioned to NBC Chicago on Tuesday, Byrd-Bennett said climate controls, libraries, and music and science labs would be on the list of considered enhancements.
But to the Chicago Teachers Union, a single school closure one too many and 50 or more would be catastrophic for the district.
“This city cannot destroy that many schools. It will send our district into chaos,” CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement. “These actions will put our students safety and academics at risk and will further destabilize our neighborhoods.”
More than 300 schools were initially eyed for closure. That number was dwindled to 129 schools last month when Byrd-Bennett announced more specific criteria as to which schools might be affected to deal with what she called a “utilization crisis.”
Byrd-Bennett has said the district has about 100,000 more seats than students at a time the district is facing a $1 billion deficit. Each closed school, she’s said, would ultimately save the district between $500,000 and $800,000.
Lewis said that figure is an outright lie.
“School closings will not save money and taxpayers will not see costs benefits in two years,” she said. “Vibrant school communities quickly transform into abandon buildings, neighborhood eyesores and public safety hazards.”
The teachers union has planned a March 27 rally to protest the pending school closures. The district has until March 31 to publish its final list.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.