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School closings: Mollison, Prescott, Deneen

The Mollison Elementary community is celebrating their removal from CPS’s school closing list – but they say their experience demonstrates the need for big changes in the process.  (Mollison’s story was first highlighted here.)

“We want the process to include schools and communities sooner rather than later,” said Mollison teacher Jodi Curl.

“We are grateful we were taken off the list, but this process remains unjust and we can’t help but have concerns for other schools that were not given a fair and just process,” she said.

One school that remains on the list is Prescott Elementary, 1632 W. Wrightwood, and parents and educators there insist that CPS’s designation of the school as underenrolled is based on faulty calculations.

CPS maintains the school is below 40 percent of  a 540-student capacity.  But at the school’s February 3 hearing, Jennifer Moore, a reading coach with the Erikson Institute who works with Prescott teachers, pointed out that CPS had overcounted the number of classrooms in the school, and that several rooms are used as a library, computer lab, art room, and for ESL and special education.

“If Prescott filled all 18 rooms with a maximum number of students allowable in order to reach a capacity of 540 students, the school would run afoul of educational best practices, CPS policy, and legal requirements,” she said.

Prescott supporters say the school is actually at 64 percent capacity and that next year’s enrollment is expected to take it up to 75 percent.

At Deneen Elementary 7240 S. Wabash, clergy and students planned a candlelight vigil at 5 p.m. this afternoon to protest a proposed “turnaround” despite rising attendance and reading and math scores which rose by double digits last year.

“I am tired of CPS playing with our children’s lives by treating them like they are a shift change at Cook County Jail,” said Rev. Kenyatta Smith, president of the Baptist Pastors Conference Youth Division.

Smith said the change would disrupt a number of programs in place to improve learning in the school, including a three-year professional development program to help teachers work with underachieving students.

Meanwhile, in a statement celebrating their victory, Mollison supporters called on CPS to “reevaluate the public hearing process,” in which CPS staff talk for unlimited time but school supporters are limited to two minutes each, up to the two-hour time set aside for the hearing.  That meant many were shut out entirely – including most supporters of Wells Prep, which was to have been moved into Mollison.

They also questioned the use of the new “performance policy” ranking system to designate schools for closing when it “has not yet been fully vetted by CPS educactors.”

Rev. Jeff Campbell, LSC cochair at Mollison, 4415 S. King, noted that CPS “is already planning to remove two of our teachers.”

“If CPS wants us to do the job that needs to be done,” he said, “we encourage CPS to provide resources that will support educational opportunities, including a reading and math coach, money to keep our two teachers, and not having to make choices between buying teachers or books or books versus educational software.”

The group applauded their alderman, Pat Dowell of the 3rd Ward, for supporting Mollison, and for introducing a resolution calling for a moratorium on school closings until CPS gets feedback from a task force of the General Assembly that is studying the district’s facility planning. A hearing on that resolution is scheduled for Monday afternoon.

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Category: Bronzeville, CPS, Englewood, school closings, West Town

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