Of the 53 elementary schools recommended for closure by Chicago
Public Schools (CPS) officials, independent hearing officers are
rejecting 14 of the proposals.
The independent hearing
officers, mostly retired judges, were charged with mediating public
hearings and determining whether CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett's school
closure plans comply with space utilization requirements and the district's guidelines.
the hearing officers questioned the district’s ability to keep students
safe during the transition, and doubted the district’s guarantee that
students would be attending higher performing schools.
to close Calhoun, Delano, Mahalia Jackson, King, Manierre, Mayo, Morgan,
Overton, Stewart, Stockton, Williams Elementary and Williams Middle School, Near North and Buckingham were all opposed by independent
hearing officers. (Click a school's name to see the report from its respective hearing officer.)
“The safety of the youngest and most vulnerable
children in the school system is a very serious thing, not to be
addressed with generalities and vague promises,” hearing officer David
Coar wrote in a statement regarding the closing of Mahalia Jackson Elementary.
Judge Clifford Meacham highlighted CPS’ failure to recognize that
students from Delano Elementary, a school not on probation, are slated to attend Melody Elementary, which is on probation.
"Such an omission gives credence to those who believe that the process is flawed,” Meacham said.
Regarding the proposal to close Uptown’s Stewart Elementary, Retired Judge Charles Winkler questioned the district’s safety plans.
an understaffed Chicago Police Department be able to provide enough
officers to assist" the children, he asked. "Is there really enough time
to get everyone up to speed so the 14,400 children from the closing
schools are provided safe passage?"
Winkler made similar remarks regaring the closure of Stockton Elementary. He said "CPS should consider delaying the implementation of the proposal until 2014-2015 school year" in his recommendations for both Stockton and Stewart schools.
CPS posted the hearing
officers’ reports late Monday night. The district is required to post the hearing officer recommendations 15 days before the Chicago Board
of Education is scheduled to vote on the school closures, which is scheduled for May 22.
"Hearing officer reports provide
information that the Board of Education can use as part of a thorough
review before its scheduled vote on May 22," Byrd-Bennett said in a statement. "We are grateful for the work
and dedication hearing officers have brought to this process. CPS will
continue to engage parents and communities, as we have from the very
start, on finalizing detailed transition plans in the coming weeks.”