By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Chicago Public Schools (CPS) released the verdicts of independent judges that were commissioned to reside over the district’s final school closing hearings. Several of the reports, which were released last week, made cases for why some schools shouldn’t be closed — but the closing of Canter was not contested.
Gilbert J. Grossi, the independent hearing judge for Canter Middle School, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave., said in his written statement, that the closing of Canter should be approved by the Chicago School Board at its next meeting on May 22.
Grossi said that although both sides passionately presented their cases and expressed very thoughtful suggestions, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has complied with the guidelines and he recommends, “That she recommend to the board and the board approve the closure of Canter Middle School.”
He also stated in his findings that he did not believe that he was in the position to assess the feasibility of a proposal, which was made by Ald. Will Burns (4th) and other community members who spoke at the hearing, to add 6th grade to the middle school in order to increase enrollment.
“Only the CEO and the board can make that determination, which I urge them to do, if they not already have, before their final decision,” Grossi said about the idea of adding the 6th grade.
Grossi said he found that CPS was in compliance with its school closing policy including proper notice of hearings; finding that Canter’s enrollment, which is 228, is below CPS’s enrollment efficiency range of 312 to 468 and therefore is underutilized based on CPS space utilization standards. Also, Canter’s enrollment has declined over 31 percent in the past 10 years; welcoming schools Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave., and Bret Harte Elementary School, 1556 E. 56th St., are level 2 schools, which are higher than Canter, which is a level 3 low performing school. Finally, plans for transportation, academic, social emotional and security measures for safe transition were presented to the judge at the hearing.