Chicago Public Schools (CPS) continues its community engagement efforts this week with six scheduled meetings to address its utilization crisis. Officials today encouraged parents and other members of school communities to attend meetings in their areas.
“Last week, we listened to the voices of more than two thousand CPS students, parents and teachers, as well as other members of local school communities,” said CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett. “And we hope to hear from thousands more at meetings taking place this week.”
CPS is holding two meetings in each school network. The first series of community meetings, which began last week, each include a presentation on data and metrics on all schools at the Network level, a public comment period and interactive discussions. Independent facilitators will be on hand to ensure that school communities are engaged in the discussion and have opportunities to provide their feedback.
The second series of meetings, beginning February 13, are a follow-up conversation to the first series of meetings, and will include discussions about specific schools still under consideration at that time.
This will allow communities to provide input and feedback on schools that remain on the table in their neighborhoods. While this list will not represent the final set of recommended schools that will go before the Chicago Board of Education, it will give communities the opportunity to give CPS crucial feedback on individual schools to better inform CEO Byrd-Bennett before she makes her final recommendations to the Board in March.
In January, CEO Byrd-Bennett announced that high-performing Level 1 schools and high schools are no longer being considered as part of this process and therefore will not be part of the discussion at these community meetings. She removed these schools from consideration in order to provide school communities with as many high-performing school options as possible and to address safety and concerns associated with including high schools in this process.
CEO Byrd-Bennett formed the independent Commission on School Utilization to gather data about the District’s utilization challenges and to engage school communities around how to best address them. After hearing from hundreds of parents and school community members at 10 public meetings, the Commission issued a series of recommendations to remove schools from consideration as part of this process, including taking high schools and high-performing Level 1 schools off the table. CEO Byrd-Bennett embraced both of these recommendations and she and her team are in the process of further defining and applying the Commission’s other recommendations, which will remove more schools from consideration as part of this process.
CPS is holding meetings related to school utilization as the District is facing a very real and daunting utilization crisis, due in large part to a significant population drop in Chicago over the last decade. Today, CPS serves 403,000 students, but has space for 511,000. Nearly 140 schools are more than half-empty and about 50 percent of all schools are underutilized. In the face of a $1 billion deficit next fiscal year, this utilization crisis is stretching the District’s limited resources much too thin. By addressing this crisis, CPS will be able to better redirect resources and invest in programs and supports that provide all children with a more well-rounded, high-quality education, such as new technology, playgrounds, libraries, AC, more nurses and counselors and art and music programs.
School communities are being notified of the community meetings via a variety of communication methods, including robo-calls, letters mailed home, by email, via cps.edu, on social media and at individual schools.