CPS Leader Talks School Closures, Consolidation
Chicago Public Schools' CEO writes an open letter to talk about the "utilization crisis" facing the district, and what she plans to do about it.
Dear CPS Parents, Guardians and Caregivers:
Over these past few weeks, most of you have heard about the utilization crisis facing our District. Because of population declines over the past decade, 145,000 fewer school-aged children reside in Chicago than they did 10 years ago. And, although enrollment in CPS schools has shown a similar decline, we have taken little action to address this issue. As a result, CPS currently serves 403,000 students but has space for more than 511,000. That means 20 percent of our schools are empty.
Enrollment and space utilization data we released this week further confirms this problem. About 50 percent of our schools are underutilized and nearly 140 schools are more than half empty. Having too many buildings with too few children spreads our already limited resources thin and makes it increasingly difficult to provide students with the high quality education they deserve.
We cannot wait any longer to address this problem. The time to do so is now.
Creating a comprehensive plan to right-size our District is an immediate priority for me as CEO so we can better invest our resources to help support our children and their learning. I am committed to engaging with you, our teachers and school communities on the front end of that process. This is why I worked with members of the Illinois General Assembly to extend the deadline to announce school actions to March 31, which will give us the time we need to work together.
Difficult decisions will need to be made over the next few months; however, it is important to remember that as of today, no schools have been identified for closure and consolidation. Even if a school is underutilized that does not mean it will be closed or consolidated. That being said, space utilization is a factor that needs to be better understood, which is why I have tasked the Commission on School Utilization with carefully examining this issue.
As you may know, I created a nine-member Commission to engage in a rigorous fact-finding mission, gathering information and feedback from experts and school communities. The Commission will present me with a list of recommendations in March, which will guide us in our decision-making.
For too long, CPS has made its decisions piecemeal when closing schools. That’s why we have committed to a five-year moratorium on closing any additional CPS facilities starting in fall 2013 once a comprehensive plan to right-size the District has been implemented. This will create the long-term stability and peace of mind that our school communities need and deserve.
Your feedback is invaluable to me, and I encourage you to participate in the Public Committee hearings being held by the Commission on School Utilization. For more information on the Commission and to view details about public meetings, visit www.schoolutilization.com. I welcome your input on this vitally important issue and look forward to working together as we strive to give every child the high quality education they deserve.
Chief Executive Officer Chicago Public Schools