School leaders: ‘Turnaround’ will benefit students

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by Catherine Guiles
Jan 24, 2008

Students at 19 Chicago public schools targeted for consolidation or “turnaround” shouldn’t have to go far for a chance at a better education, CEO Arne Duncan said Thursday.

While certain neighborhoods are getting new buildings, 11 elementary schools facing declining enrollments would be closed, phased out, relocated or merged with nearby schools.

Duncan said at a press conference that fewer than 1,500 children would have to move, “most only short distances.” About 409,000 students are enrolled in the district’s 655 schools.

Students at schools that are under capacity suffer because they may not get access to extracurricular activities and subjects such as art and music, Duncan added: “You can’t have 15 kids in a class. It doesn’t work.”

Meanwhile, under the Renaissance 2010 initiative, eight schools with persistently poor test scores would undergo “turnaround.” Students would stay but teachers and principals would be replaced, although teachers could reapply for their jobs.

Orr High School, currently divided into three small schools, would be reunited and turned into a teacher training academy run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership.

The turnaround effort differs from previous ones in that the system is focusing on high schools and their feeder elementary schools at the same time, Chief Education Officer Barbara Eason-Watkins said. The district will also create an interdepartmental office “to improve schools at a much more aggressive rate.”

The plan has met opposition from parents, teachers, lawmakers and union officials.

“The Chicago Teachers Union has consistently opposed the idea of shifting students and closing schools as a means to improving them,” CTU President Marilyn Stewart said in a statement. “Combining schools and students may lead to overcrowding, thus lessening a student’s chance for success.”

The district will hold public hearings Feb. 4 through Feb. 16. The Chicago Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the proposals at its meeting Feb. 27.

What could happen to your school?

Schools targeted for “turnaround”:
-Harper High School in West Englewood
-Harper feeder schools Fulton and Copernicus elementary

-Orr High School campus, comprising Mose Vines High School, A.A.S.T.A. High School and EXCEL-Orr Academy, in Humboldt Park.
– Orr feeder schools Morton Career Academy and Howe Elementary

School facing closure:
– Gladstone Elementary on the Near West Side
– Midway Academy on the South Side

Schools to be phased out (accepting no new students):
– Irving Park Middle on the Northwest Side
– Andersen Elementary in East Ukrainian Village

Schools facing consolidation:
– Johns Middle and Miles Davis academies would combine into a new Miles Davis Academy building on the South Side
– Carver Middle on the far South Side
– De La Cruz Middle in Little Village
– Abbott Elementary in Bridgeport

Schools facing relocation:
– Edison Regional Gifted Center on the North Side
– Roque DeDuprey Elementary in Ukrainian Village

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