Hyde Park parents criticize CPS’s 10-year plan

Staff Writer

Parents in Hyde Park who reviewed Chicago Public Schools (CPS) final version of its 10-year Educational Facilities Master Plan said their concerns were not addressed.

In July CPS sent Todd Babbitz, chief transformation officer for CPS, to Hyde Park with its first draft of the Educational Facilities Master Plan. CPS hosted the community meeting to hear what Hyde Parkers had to say about the state of its schools and how they could be improved over the next 10 years. At its September meeting the school board approved a final version of the plan, but many Hyde Park parents said the plan didn’t address the concerns they voiced at the meeting two months earlier.

In a letter sent to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barbara Byrd-Bennett and several other CPS officials, Kristy Ulrich Papczun, a Hyde Park resident, teacher and parent of children in public school, said the final version of the plan does not reflect the ideals of those who attended the CPS meeting.

“After reviewing the Educational Facilities Master Plan, I am very concerned about the inconsistencies I found,” Ulrich Papczun said in the letter. “The ideas that were brought to the table as our community priorities were not placed in the master plan.”

She said the report emphasized adding 7th and 8th grade to Shoesmith Elementary School, 1330 E. 50th St., when in fact the community stated that there was no space for 7th and 8th graders at Shoesmith which is why “we fought to keep Canter open to maintain a neighborhood middle school.”

According to CPS, Shoesmith is efficient with school unitization. The K to 6 school has 342 students in 15 classrooms. The school also has two mobile units on its grounds, one for the school library and another for social worker and counseling offices.

Ulrich Papczun said CPS also chose to ignore the parents’ preference for smaller class sizes over exterior enhancements. When asked directly to choose between the two, the parents said they would prefer to deal with leaking roofs a bit longer if it meant class sizes could be reduced to 25 students per class in the coming years.

“To say that CPS looks forward to further collaboration with our community seems to be lip service,” Ulrich Papczun said in response to closing pleasantries stated in the CPS plan. “The few opportunities we have had to voice the desires of our community through the school closing hearings have been hopeful but then do not result in our school planning reflecting our community’s voice.”

Krystle Price, who has a son in preschool and a daughter in first grade at Kozminski Elementary School, 936 E. 54th St., where 32 students are in each classroom, said she was one of the parents at the meeting who agreed with making smaller class size a priority.

Price also said she was surprised to see that Kozminski, which was one of the schools that was part of CPS Track E, year round, pilot program, was not listed in the report as one of the schools to receive an air conditioning system.

“My daughter is always saying that she can’t concentrate in class because it’s too hot,” Price said.

In addition to Kozminzki being overlooked for an AC system, CPS did not allocate any funding to Kenwood Academy High School, 5015 S. Blackstone, for AC installation.

“I haven’t heard anything from CPS regarding capital improvements,” said Gregory Jones, principal at Kenwood, who said he sent CPS an email stating the case for the school’s need for improvement.

Jones said the school currently has two AC systems but only one works and it only cools part of the school.

“The building with both gym rooms does not have air so on extremely hot days the school cancels gym and the third floor is a mess,” Jones said.

Kenwood normally offers summer school but the last two years it had to be canceled because there was no air conditioning.

Other items on Jones’ list include tile replacement and updates to the school’s science lab.

“Only 20 percent of the school has been retiled,” Jones said. “The old asbestos tiles are still there and popping off the walls.”

He said because the school, which has a capacity level of 1,656, currently has 1,830 students, some science classes have to use math classrooms and can only use the science labs to work on special assignments.

The plan also states that all of the Hyde Park elementary schools will offer early childhood programs. About three years ago Murray Elementary School, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave., discontinued its early childhood program to make space for its 7th and 8th grade classes.

Greg Mason, principal at Murray, said no CPS officials have contacted him regarding plans to reinstate an early childhood program at Murray.