By Chinyere Farr Douglas and Maeve O’Donovan
Since 2002, the City of Chicago has either closed or “turned around” a whopping 200 public schools.
City leaders insist the reasons for the closures are due to chronic low-performance and under-enrollment. Most of the affected schools are located in the South and West Sides of Chicago where predominantly blacks and Latinos reside. The idea was to replace the closed schools with new ‘renaissance” schools to provide a better outcome for students and staff.
Chicago has opened nearly as many new “renaissance” schools and it’s closed. Although some of the new schools have become some of the city’s most successful schools, many of them are no longer open.
We got the opportunity to interview two Chicago public school teachers and one current Chicago public school student who are affected by the city’s efforts to improve schools.
Carla Salvato, a UIC Education major and a teacher at O.A. Thorp in Portage Park, said budgeting has always been an issue amongst many of the CPS schools. She said some neighborhood schools are fortunate enough to have iPads, computers, smartboards and Chromebooks for lecture. Others do not. Her current school O.A. Thorp does.
Carla speaking about how the budget affects the different schools mentions,“There have iPads, Chromebooks, Smartboards per one classroom and some schools don’t even have any of those for the whole entire school.”
“Students learning is affected because they don’t have all the resources they need, which isn’t fair” Salvato said. “The technology is the greatest need for funding within the school.”
Macy Geyer, a UIC education major and current teacher at Oscar DePriest Elementary School in the South Austin neighborhood, has been teacher for almost a year in CPS.
Geyer mentioned technology being different throughout all schools. Where some schools have bigger budgets, meaning they contain better technology and other schools with little to no budget don’t have anything.
Oscar DePriest Elementary is among one of the newer schools to open on the West Side of Chicago. Budgeting is still an issue for this school which in return impacts the teacher and the students.
“There are some days where a student will ask the teacher for a pencil and she will say no, I don’t have any left,” she said.
That becomes and issue when the teacher will have to go and spend their own money on classroom supplies such as pencils and notebooks. Supplies that should be readily available for students.
Through all the classrooms, the Illinois State Standards for Curriculum for DePriest has been met. Although Geyer has not experienced a school closing herself, her mentor teacher has. She reports the closings happen abruptly and relocation can be inconsiderate. If teacher get the opportunity to move to another school, it’s likely for them to be place in schools far from their homes on very short notice.
Located on the South Side of Chicago in the Englewood neighborhood, John Hope College Preparatory High School is set to close its doors within the next two years because of under-enrollment.
As former student of John Hope High School, Adrienne Bradford was fortunate enough to attend all four years at Hope before it closed in 2018. Although fortunate to graduate, Bradford is still highly disturbed by the rapid school closings that have affected her community.
When she first heard the news that the school would be closing before graduation, Bradford was in disbelief. She defended Hope in saying it was a safe place for her and her peers. She witnessed some of the best teachers laid off because of the lack of funding and student attendance.
Bradford went on the mention that the she enjoyed the smaller class sizes because is enabled teachers and students to build trusting relationships. Her teachers were more than teachers, they were mentors who truly cared about the student’s academic success even though they were aware of the struggles they faced outside school walls.
Michael Passman the Chief of Communication and Emily Bolton the Press Secretary for Chicago Public Schools were contacted by us several times. They were asked if they could answer questions about the Chicago Public Schools closings for the UIC Data Journalism course. We had no response each effort.