On Thursday, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) officials proposed a plan close 54 schools in an effort to address a $1 billion budget shortfall. Student advocates say the schools closures will disproportionately affect students of color and endanger the lives of those who may have to cross gang boundaries to attend school.
The Associated Press reported there are 54 schools slated to close but the Chicago Tribune reports 61 facilities could be shut down--that comes to nearly 13 percent of all elementary and middle schools in the district.
Officials said the shutdowns would affect 30,000 students, almost all in kindergarten through eighth grade and most now attending poorly performing schools in African-American neighborhoods on the South and West sides where enrollment has sagged in recent years.
CPS officials argue that by redirecting resources from closing "underutilized facilities," students will have access to better performing options close to their current schools.
A press release sent out by CPS Thursday included promises of air conditioning in every classroom, libraries in every schools, iPads for all students in grades 3-8 and that "all students with disabilities, students in temporary living situations, and English Language Learners will continue to receive required services to support their learning."
But while CPS officials refer to the facilities slated to absorb students as "welcoming schools," they're also preparing for enhanced security measures to address "anticipated frictions" as students from differing neighborhoods are forced to mix.
Since 2008, more than 530 youth have been killed in Chicago with nearly 80 percent of the homicides occurring in 22 African-American or Latino community areas on the city's South, Southwest and West sides, according to the Chicago Reporter.
The AP reports many of the schools identified for closure are in high-crime areas of Chicago where gang violence contributed to a marked increase in the city's homicide rate last year. The district plans to have community groups help students travel to their new locations safely.
Charter Schools are expected to profit from the move to merge schools, the Chicago Tribune reports. "Altogether, six charters will be allowed to expand or open new campuses in underenrolled neighborhood schools, including some high schools."