CPS School Closings: City’s West Side

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Yesterday, I took the opportunity to attend an open hearing at the CPS offices for the Ryerson Elementary School, which is on the list of possible school closings to take place during the Fall of 2013. Ryerson a school located in the Humboldt Park neighborhood on the west side of the city, is 1of 4 schools on the infamous list of school closings.

The hearing discussed the city’s rational behind the closing of Ryerson, putting forth that the reason the school was to be closes was that it didn’t meet “enrollment efficiency”, meaning that the school was “under utilized” given it has a capacity of “900 students and 30 classrooms” and is only enrolling to date “399 students”.

Therefore, CPS Deputy Chief of Schools for the Garfield/ Humboldt Elementary network Herald Johnson, stated that it was more efficient to combine Ryerson and Ward another school in the Humboldt/Garfield neighborhood which CPS claims is a higher performing school based on ISAT scores and other standardized test performance.

Johnson also said that by combining Ryerson and Ward, “students [from Ryerson] would be attending a higher performing elementary school” and made it clear that Ryerson had “enough space to house students from both schools without going over capacity”.

CPS official Johnson also made it clear that there were measures being put in place to ensure children’s safety during the transition. Measures outlined in the “draft transition plan which explains the additional resources available to all families affected by the school closings.

Some of the safety measures outlined during Johnson’s statement included, that the CPS office of Safety and Security or OSS would:

1)    Review and update all school safety audits

  • Safety personnel allocation
  • School safety technology system – and make enhancements as appropriate

2)    Be available to address specific safety concerns raised by students

3)    Provide safety staff for students traveling to and from school

At the meeting student family members, teachers, staff and community members also had the opportunity to speak put forth their rationale as to why Ryerson should remain open.

Parents like Marilyn Harper, who is a parent and teacher at Ryerson.

Harper was one of the few parent speakers at the hearing.

She said, “I was deeply heart broken and angry when I read in the Chicago Tribune on March 22nd that CPS wanted to launch the largest mass school closing in U.S. history.”

She said she questioned, “Why has CPS shut down so many schools in African-American communities? Something is wrong with this picture.”

Harpers main point during her brief speech was to make it clear that she believed the massive school closings were something that would simply cause resented, “confusion and anger” amongst members of the communities affected by these closings.

Harper said she believed, “school closings should take place gradually and happen within a span of 3 years. Allowing for thorough research and accurate information to form a conclusion as to whether or not a school should be closed down. “

The hearing was very insightful as to the rational behind both sides of the issue and helped me gage a better perspective as to how these closing are impacting the communities in which their located. Insights, which I’m definitely looking to include my upcoming story on the CPS School Closings in the city’s west side.

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