By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
The Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO) held a press conference Friday afternoon at its headquarters denouncing Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) decision to phase out Dyett High School. The organization said that CPS is creating a “School Desert” in the Bronzeville community and should Dyett close, Kenwood Academy High School would be the neighborhood school in closest proximity.
Since 2011, when CPS announced the closing of Dyett, 555 E. 51st St., student, parent and alumni groups from Dyett have spoken out against the idea and the students’ loss of honors programs, classrooms and the right to enter and exit through the from doors of the school. At Friday’s press conference, community members spoke about the students lack of options in finding another neighborhood school in the area. Although Phillips High School, 244 E. Pershing Rd., which has been assigned Dyett’s school boundaries by CPS, is an open enrollment school, it is an Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) turnaround school whose policies allow the school to push out some students, said Jitu Brown, education organizer for KOCO.
Brown said parents and students from Phillips have come to KOCO with complaints about students being counseled out of the school, sometimes without parent consultation.
DuSable High School, 4934 S. Wabash Ave., which was closed and divided into several small schools, has one charter school, DuSable Leadership Academy, which the school board may vote to close at its November meeting due to continual poor performance. King High School, 4445 S. Drexel Ave., is now a selective enrollment school, which has a competitive enrollment process, leaving Kenwood, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave., as the closest neighborhood school option.
During report card pick up, the Dyett local school council (LSC) collected 300 signatures of parents and neighbors who want the school to remain open, said Steven Guy, community member of the Dyett LSC.
“Phillips’ AUSL zero tolerance policy pushes our children out,” Guy said. “DuSable is unstable — one of its small schools is also closing — and Kenwood is overcrowded.”
In a previous interview, Kenwood Principal Gregory Jones said the school has a capacity level of 1,656 but currently has 1,830 students. Jones said the large number of students has affected the way some classes are administered. Brown said the best option is to keep Dyett open. KOCO, who met with CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett in March, is petitioning for another meeting with her to present their proposal for the Bronzeville Global Achievers Village neighborhood school network they originally proposed in 2011 when Jean Claude Brizzard was the CPS CEO.
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