Reconsidering Canter closure


Editor’s note: This column was originally published on the Herald website.
I share the concern voiced by many in the community about the Chicago Board of Education’s preliminary decision to close Canter Middle School. In terms of becoming the first choice for area middle-schoolers, Canter did not completely live up to its hope and its promise. But by all accounts, the school is vibrant, academically sound and a credit to the community.

The eighth-graders at Canter will finish school in June and then make their individual ways to high school. But what about the seventh-graders? The current Chicago Public Schools philosophy stresses continuity and likes schools that cover the elementary school waterfront, from kindergarten through eighth grade.
Middle schools are no longer the preferred model. In looking at the list of Canter seventh-graders, however, it’s clear that closing the school before they enter eighth grade is to consign most of them to a complete lack of continuity. They left their home schools in September. Most will not be returning to those schools for eighth grade. Harte and Ray are the receiving schools for the Canter youngsters, but only 19 of the 105 Canter seventh-graders started out at either Harte or Ray.

The largest number of students — 38 — came to Canter from Shoesmith. Under the current CPS plan, they can’t go back to Shoesmith, as Shoesmith has no eighth grade. Nearly 30 of the youngsters came from schools in Woodlawn, South Shore and other parts of the city. All of these students have one more year of elementary school. They left their home school for a year, they’ve had one year at Canter, and at least some number will find themselves in yet a third school before they embark upon a fourth school, the high school they will enter after the next academic year.

This isn’t good for continuity. And I can’t believe that this much disruption will provide these youngsters with the best education our public schools have to offer. I have urged the Chicago Board of Education to keep Canter open at least for the next academic year—and to reconsider the decision to close Canter at all.