After facing criticism and protests at public meetings, Chicago Public Schools on Monday, February 12 announced that it will keep Englewood, Harper, Hope and TEAM high schools open.
The schools will still eventually close, but following extensive community meetings, CPS says it will allow the students to graduate before moving forward on plans to build a state-of-the-art, $85 million neighborhood high school campus in Englewood.
CPS wanted to close the schools this year, but parents and teachers spoke against the plan, saying it would be too hard on them and their communities to adjust to the plan.
“Englewood students deserve a state-of-the-art high school and a world-class education, which is why we’re excited to build an $85 million campus that will rival the city’s best schools,” said CPS CEO Dr. Janice K. Jackson. “At the same time, we want to honor current students and their families, and we’ve heard that many of them want to be able to stay and graduate from their current schools. We’re happy to adjust our plans to take their feedback into account, and we will continue to support these students with additional resources throughout the transition.”
Last year CPS acted on a formal recommendation from the Englewood Community Action Council (CAC) to build a single state-of-the-art campus to serve the Harper, Hope, Robeson and TEAM communities. In December, CPS proposed closing the four schools at the end of the year due to low enrollment and providing $8.5 million in transition supports to help ensure students find a school next year that will allow them to finish high school successfully.
The recommendation was due to a high percentage of students seeking other options, and the need for a state-of-the-art campus in the community. Englewood has the sixth largest high school age population in the city, but more than 90 percent of current students leave the neighborhood to attend high school, and current enrollment at the four schools ranges from 90 students to 135 students.
When CPS agreed to work toward a solution to address high school needs in Englewood, the district committed to a process of gathering feedback and listening to the community. Since January 2017, CPS has held over 10 Englewood CAC meetings, six Steering Committee meetings, 10 office hour sessions, more than 10 meetings with parents and students, and several other meetings to discuss the proposal with teachers, LSCs, elected officials, administrators and the broader community.
Since Harper, Hope and TEAM will close after current freshmen graduate, freshmen will not be admitted next year and the attendance areas for the schools will be assigned to higher performing neighborhood high schools in 2018 and the new, state-of-the-art Englewood high school in 2019. Over the next three years, CPS will provide each Englewood high school with program support funding to ensure core subjects are available and students can graduate with all required classes.
The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) released a statement hours after CPS announced its plan to not immediately close the four schools.