CPS announces draft criteria for school closings

October 31, 2011

Officials released the district’s long-awaited criteria for school actions this afternoon, providing a glimpse of which schools could be closed, phased out or consolidated at the end of this year.

However, the criteria – required by Illinois Senate Bill 630, which also mandates that any proposed closings be announced by Dec. 1 – do not apply to school turnarounds.

This year’s round of school actions will be the first to take place under the stringent requirements of the new facilities law. CPS is also required to draft a 10-year facilities plan and a 5-year capital improvements plan, with community input.

Any school that has been on the lowest level of the district’s performance policy (“Level 3”) for two consecutive years will be eligible, unless its graduation rate (for high schools) or percentage of students meeting state standards (for elementary schools) is above average in its geographic area. Schools that are in the top three-quarters of the district on the "trends and growth" section of the school report card will also be off the hook.

However, those that are in the process of phasing out can be targeted regardless of performance. And, any schools that are up to half a mile apart and don't offer all grades K-8 can be combined into a single school.

The guidelines are only a draft, and will be finalized after a 21-day public comment period.

The district’s actions will be guided by a “portfolio analysis” of its school seats, which has shown so far that 123,000 students attend low-performing schools.

At a presentation to the Chicago Board of Education on Wednesday, Chief Portfolio Officer Oliver Sicat argued that parents are “voting with their feet” and leaving low-performing schools, causing them to be underutilized to boot. Under-enrolled schools are an enormous resource drain at a time when the district faces projected budget deficits of $363 million next year, and $862 million in fiscal year 2014.

Officials pledge that when closings occur, receiving schools will get extra resources – such as arts and after-school programs, social-emotional learning supports, extra administrators, or school-based health clinics – to help with students' transition.