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Crane, Dyett high schools to be phased out in CPS shake-up

Walter H. Dyett High School. React announcement possible closing High School.  Wednesday evening November 30 2011 | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

Walter H. Dyett High School. React to the announcement of the possible closing of the High School. Wednesday evening November 30, 2011 | Scott Stewart~Sun-Times

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Editorial: Chicago moving in right direction to fix schools
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Updated: January 3, 2012 9:03AM

--Flagging Dyett and Crane high schools would die a slow death by no longer enrolling freshmen, and four struggling elementary schools would be closed by summer under the second wave of academic shake-ups proposed by Chicago Public School leaders this week.

So many CPS schools are failing that new school leaders assembled by Mayor Rahm Emanuel can only address “some of the worst of the worst, not necessarily the absolute worst in every neighborhood,” Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard said Wednesday.

“When you look at the worst of the worst, we couldn’t always take action, because there were no [better] options in the area” to send kids to, Brizard said.

“It’s heartbreaking and painful that we couldn’t do more.”

Brizard also revealed that the system plans a charter school crackdown. It will start a “revocation process’’ with two low-performing charters, and this week supported the Chicago International Charter School network’s shake-up of one of its low-performing campuses.

Earlier this week, CPS revealed it wants to “turnaround” two flagging high schools and eight elementary schools by changing out the adults but allowing 5,800 kids to stay. Wednesday’s proposals — due under a new law by Dec. 1 — involve the displacement of nearly 2,800 students as well as school staff.

Two poorly performing elementary schools would close: In Woodlawn, Guggenheim, the state’s lowest-scoring elementary school, would be shuttered and its 290 students sent to Bond. In Kenwood, Price Elementary would close and its 111 students, in a possible first-ever for a CPS closing, would be bused for up to four years to the state-of-the-art National Teachers Academy, near the Ickes Housing Development, estimated to cost up to $90,000 a year.

Three phase-outs begun years ago would end with closures by June. That includes Lathrop, whose 83 students would be sent to Johnson, and Reed, whose 44 students would go to Nicholson. Plus, the phase-out of Best Practice High, which holds no students currently, would finally end officially on paper.

Dyett and Crane high schools would stop accepting freshmen, with eighth-graders in Dyett’s attendance area routed to Phillips High. Up to 90 eighth-graders now in Crane’s attendance area would be directed to Wells, and up to 45 others would be routed to Manley, Marshall and Farragut.

In addition, Crane’s dwindling student body would begin sharing its building with Talent Development Charter High, which chooses kids by lottery.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) feared his Crane student constituents would experience the same spike in violence at Wells that Austin kids experienced in 2006 after Austin High was closed and students from its neighborhood were routed to Wells. “The truth of the matter is, we have issues of violence, of gangs,’’ Fioretti said.

Those familiar with Crane’s history and strong basketball reputation were saddened. “As far as sports goes, it’s going to kill the program and this program brings a lot of pride to the West Side of Chicago,” said Crane boys basketball coach Chris Head.

Dyett sophomore Aquila Griffin predicted that making kids travel farther to school would only discourage them from attending. “They made a bad decision, the wrong decision,’’ Griffin said. “Dyett is a great place.’’

In two other facility changes, the Academy of Communications and Technology charter school, which voluntarily suspended its charter, would create a new school with KIPP charter school and assume part of Nash Elementary’s building. Chi Arts Contract High would share Doolittle East’s building.

CPS officials promised a $5 million investment in the shake-ups, including added staff and security, to ensure a smooth transition. Following public hearings, a school board vote is expected in February.

Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis blasted this week’s one-two punch of school shake-ups. She questioned what will happen to children in closed or phased-out schools who will be “parceled out to other neighborhoods.”

“Instead of trying to solve the problem and fix our failing schools, the Board of Education is simply moving it around,’’ Lewis said in a written statement.

CTU and others immediately began scheduling protests. The teachers union will conduct a “teach-in” on the history of school closings at 10 a.m. Saturday at King College Prep, 4445 S. Drexel. Workshops on “how to save troubled schools’’ will be included.

In addition, the Kenwood-Oakland Community Organization planned to protest outside Emanuel’s fifth-floor City Hall office Thursday.

CPS has hurt Kenwood-Oakland neighborhood schools over the years by forcing Price to accept kids from other closed schools by converting Dyett from a middle school to a high school, and by changing the grade configuration of two neighborhood elementary schools, said KOCO’s Shannon Bennett.

As a result, KOCO and others spent months crafting a plan to rejuvenate Dyett and its feeder elementary schools — something CPS officials said they did consider.

“We have a plan. They know about our plan,’’ said Bennett. “To ignore that plan is criminal....It’s an atrocity.’’

Julie Woestehoff of Parents United for Responsible Education questioned why CPS was promising things like extra security, reading specialists, counselors, and more arts and music only after schools are closed, rather than before.

“If those are such great ideas, why didn’t they try them before they had to close the school?” Woestehoff said. “If they are willing to do it now, why weren’t they willing to do it before, when they could keep the community intact and not displace children and disrupt their lives and make people lose their jobs?”

Contributing: Stefano Esposito and Clyde Travis

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