Locals protest school closures

Staff Writer

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) School Utilization hearing for the Mid-South area of the city took place Monday, Feb. 4. The Commission on School Utilization, formed by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, heard testimonies from those representing elementary schools in the area.

A large crowd of teachers, principals and parents attended the hearing for Burnham Park Network, which is made up of 31 elementary schools including those in Hyde Park and Kenwood. Representatives from each school were called forward by the Commission to give testimonies about why their schools should not be closed.

Byrd-Bennett is expected to release a school-closing list on Feb. 18 but there is currently a list of schools that has been classified by CPS as underutilized. Hyde Park schools labeled as underutilized include Reavis Elementary School, 834 E. 50th St.; Kozminski, 936 E. 54th St.; Canter Middle School, 4959 S. Blackstone Ave., and Ray Elementary School, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave.

Representatives from Reavis, Kozminski, Ray, Murray and Shoesmith elementary schools and Canter Middle School were at the hearing to speak out on behalf of their schools.

Joy Clendenning, a parent who spoke on behalf of Canter and its benefit of being a small school for 7th and 8th grade students, said she found the entire process very discouraging.

“I think the commission consists of really well-intentioned, nice people but the process is flawed,” Clendenning said. “It would have been a better approach to create teams and have them visit each school. What’s with having people pleading ‘Please don’t close my school?’”

Michelle Webb, a teacher at Ray, and Gordon Mayer, chairman of the Ray local school council, spoke on behalf of the school.

Kristine Kohler-Hall and Lauren Summerfield, teachers at Kozminski, spoke on behalf of the school’s climate change. Michelle Brumfeld, assistant principal at Kozminski, said the school’s more “calming environment gives students the opportunity to learn.”

Reavis Principal Gayle King and Falandra Amick, chairwoman of the Reavis parent teacher advisory (PTA), spoke on behalf of the school at the hearing. Demara Campbell, chairwoman of the Reavis local school council, said now that the school has new leadership a lot has improved.

“We have more parent involvement and more programs such as Saturday school and early morning programs for students,” Campbell said. “Ms. King is working on building up the school’s population by adding another head start program.”

Although the school is on the underutilized list, Campbell said there is a waiting list.

“We currently have one class per grade,” Campbell said. “We are working toward being able to receive funding for more teachers in each grade.”