By GABRIELLA CRUZ-MARTÍNEZ
The Hyde Park – Kenwood Community Action Council (HPKCAC) voted to submit a letter (see Letter to the Editor, page 4) to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) seeking specific information about the physical state of the school buildings and other concerns in the Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhoods, during the council’s monthly meeting on Aug. 22, at the Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S. Cornell Ave.
The letter was written in response to a presentation given on June 27 of Chicago Public School’s recent updates to the Educational Facilities Master Plan (EFMP) for the Bronzeville – Lakefront Planning Area, which includes the Hyde Park, Kenwood and Woodlawn neighborhoods.
The EFMP produces a space utilization report, that details the utilization rate and enrollment data for each school; facility performance standards, to evaluate various components including school design, maintenance, operation and usage; and capital improvements in order to ensure a 10-year plan that can improve the quality and usage of schools in the area. According to the EFMP report, this section of planning includes 12,000 public school elementary students and and estimated 5,000 public high school students.
Concerns were raised among HPKCAC members after a subcommittee met on July 31 to review the Bronzeville – South Lakefront Planning Area section of the EFMP and failed to find any specific information about the physical state of the school buildings, among other issues in the Hyde Park and Kenwood neighborhoods.
“CPS Deputy Chief of Planning and Construction Mary De Runtz delivered a presentation about the EFMP plans to the HPKCAC on June 27,” said Katie Gruber, co-chair of HPKCAC. “We are very thankful for her to have taken the time to visit us and discuss the recent updates of the plan to our members. However, there are some sections about school utilization, for example, that fail to give specific details we would like to evaluate. A subcommittee of the HPKCAC has gotten together to draft a letter asking for more details.”
The EFMP report shows current facility deficiencies within the Bronzeville – South Lakefront area at 48 percent for mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, conveyances, and technology; a 26 percent deficiency in building envelope, 19 percent deficiency in interior, and a six percent deficiency in sites based on data collected as part of the 2014–15 facility condition assessment by Chicago Public Schools on CPS owned and leased campuses.
In the letter, HPKCAC requests a detailed review of the physical state of each school building in the district, learn what CPS sees as the “individual building improvement priorities” for the schools, as well as the results for lead in the water at all schools in the Bronzeville/South Lakefront section. HPKCAC also suggests that it would be helpful to see the facility reports from 2016–2017 and 2017–2018 to get a sense of the kinds of capital improvement projects CPS has invested in recent years.
“We believe our schools would benefit from the additions of a component to each school’s CPS website through which parents could report any problems with the school building or its grounds,” read the HPKCAC letter to CPS. “We know our principals are very busy and if there was a way for parents to flag an issue at a school building and get it addressed quickly, it might be a useful tool for CPS to respond to parents’ concerns.”
The EFMP report also included school utilization rates for the last year. With the recent district update, CPS has changed its range for school utilization categories. Previously, schools falling between 80 percent and 120 percent of their ideal capacity were labeled as “efficient”. Schools above 120 percent were “overcrowded” and schools below 80 percent were labeled as “underutilized”. The range is now 70 to 110 percent for a school to be considered efficient.
According to the EFMP report, 60 percent of elementary schools in the Bronzeville – South Lakefront Planning Area district classify as underutilized, and 41 percent of high schools are underutilized.
HPKCAC recommends CPS use the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability’s analysis of the new Illinois funding formula for schools to increase school utilization rates. One of these tips is having class-size number of 15 students per classroom for grades kindergarten through third grade and 20 students per classroom for fourth and fifth grades.
Additionally, HPKCAC recognizes that while CPS athletic facilities are improving on the South Side, the west side of the Bronzeville – South Lakefront area lacks a lighted 8-lane, 400 meter track with an artificial turf field for varsity soccer and football games. HPKCAC suggests that the facility be placed at the northeast corner of Washington Park, at 51st Street and Cottage Grove Avenue.
“Such a facility would serve students from Kenwood High School, Dyett High School, King High School, as well as several local elementary schools, community residents, and patients at Provident Hospital,” states the letter. “Physical well-being is linked to good health and academic success, so we believe that such an investment would benefit our community in a multitude of ways.”
To view the EFMP report and see a full list of utilization rates for each school, visit: www.schoolreports.cps.edu/EFMP/EducationalFacilitiesMasterPlan_2018.pdf.