Chicago Public Schools officials confirmed that 61 school buildings will be shut down – more than 10 percent of the district’s current locations – an act that has many in the city infuriated.
A list of more than 100 schools had been under review by CPS and the city’s Commission on School Utilization, which suggested up to 80 schools could be closed. City officials say that displaced students will be able to attend a better school within a mile of their old one.
Black students make up the majority of the 30,000 students who will be affected by the closings. Parents have expressed concerns that classrooms will become overcrowded, and that the closed schools would remain abandoned zones in their neighborhoods.
“For too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because they are in underutilized, under-resourced schools,” CPS Chief Exective Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement. “By consolidating these schools, we can focus on safely getting every child into a better performing school close to their home.”
Chicago has the nation’s third largest school system, and the closings would be one of the largest in U.S. history.
Byod-Bennet said that the closings are necessary to reduce a $1 billion deficit in the CPS budget. The city’s teachers accused the district of evaluating the children as statistics rather than human beings. Chicago’s school year began with a teacher strike that lasted more than a week.
“Closing 50 schools is an abomination,” Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said according to NPR. “But for him Wall Street will be cheering, ’cause that’s what they did about Philadelphia. This is not a game between mayors to see how many schools they can close. These are real children’s lives.”
School board members will have a final vote on the closings in May.