Chicago Public Schools (CPS) today released finalized guidelines that will help the public understand the criteria to determine various school actions the District may take to help give every child in Chicago access to a high-quality education. CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett stressed that these are only guidelines and that no decisions have been made on any school actions, and that no schools have yet been placed on any lists.
“These guidelines are meant to aid our work as we conduct a rigorous and transparent community engagement process around right-sizing the District,” said CEO Byrd-Bennett. “The Commission on School Utilization will now lead our efforts to give our communities a voice in the process, which will help guide us as we make the difficult decisions needed to address the severe underutilization of our schools that is spreading our resources thin.”
After the draft guidelines were released in October, CPS held a 21-day period of public comment where the community could submit feedback on the guidelines. Responses received during that public comment period are now online and available on the District’s website at www.cps.edu/schoolactionsfeedback.
CPS sought and incorporated community feedback and used multiple modes of communication to engage communities throughout Chicago before releasing draft guidelines. More than 1,000 individuals provided feedback via:
- Surveys sent to Local School Councils (LSCs), Community Action Councils (CACs), Parent Advisory Councils (PACs), community organizations and elected officials;
- Five facilitated community roundtable discussions held across the city;
- Meetings with the faith-based community;
- A citywide tele-town hall;
- Meetings with Chicago Teachers Union leadership;
- A citywide CAC leadership meeting;
- A Twitter tele-townhall; and
- Feedback solicited on cps.edu.
Several of these steps were taken from community engagement recommendations made by the Chicago Educational Facilities Task Force, which is the body that reports to the state on CPS’ compliance with state statute around school actions.
The school actions guidelines propose criteria to inform decisions around school closures, consolidations, reassignment boundary changes, phase-outs and co-locations. For additional information and to view the guidelines in their entirety, visit: www.cps.edu/2013guidelines.
Some changes from last year’s guidelines were prompted by community feedback. Changes include:
- Differentiating criteria for school consolidation, reassignment boundary change, closure, or phase-out from criteria for co-location;
- Removing academic performance criteria, to focus on the District’s space utilization challenges; and
- Adding space utilization criteria.
In order to rigorously engage the community, CEO Byrd-Bennett has taken extra measures including the appointment of the independent Commission on School Utilization, a nine-member group with various areas of expertise that will make recommendations to the CEO around right-sizing the District. The Commission has begun a series of public meetings across the city where they gather input from parents, teachers and school communities and meet with subject matter experts. The Commission will present a written report in March to guide CEO Byrd-Bennett in making recommendations around school actions to the Chicago Board of Education.
CEO Byrd-Bennett traveled this week to Springfield where she requested a one-time extension from the Illinois General Assembly of the Dec. 1 statutory deadline to announce school actions. The legislation was approved by the Illinois General Assembly and has been submitted to the Governor’s Office for signing. This legislation gives the District the time it needs to engage communities on the front-end of this process and extends the deadline to announce proposed school actions to March 31, 2013, after the Commission has made its recommendations to CEO Byrd-Bennett.
With this extension, CEO Byrd-Bennett has committed to implement a five-year moratorium on CPS facility closures starting in fall 2013. The moratorium would provide long-term stability to students, parents and school communities after CPS develops and enacts a comprehensive plan to right-size the District, which currently has space for 500,000 students but only has 400,000 enrolled.
Chicago Public Schools serves 403,000 students in 681 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.