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78% of kids from closing schools already signed up at new schools, CPS says

Kathleen Consalter mother an autistic 5th grader Lafayette who's been having hard time finding school with proper autistic support send

Kathleen Consalter, mother of an autistic 5th grader at Lafayette, who's been having a hard time finding a school with proper autistic support to send her daughter, joined CPS parents outside Lafayette Elementary protesting CPS' decision to use a formula to close schools the district considers under capacity. Lauren Fitzpatrick~Sun-Times

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Updated: June 3, 2013 8:16PM

As Chicago Public Schools said it had reenrolled about three-quarters of the children about to be displaced when a record number of elementary schools close this month, some parents called the enrollment process rushed and chaotic.

Outside Lafayette Elementary, one of the closing schools with a giant special education population, Kathleen Consalter said she went to enroll her 11-year-old daughter in the school CPS suggested by CPS’ suggested May 31 deadline — but was told at the school there isn’t yet an autism program.

“It’s my job to make the transition as easy as possible for her,” Consalter said. “I have to figure this out so she doesn’t have to in the fall. I don’t want to send her to an unorganized school — or into the unknown in the fall.”

Cheered by a few dozen parents, Erica Clark of the group Parents 4 Teachers lamented how the CPS formula to close schools — based on enrollment numbers — is being applied unfairly. While some schools deemed under-capacity are closing, others remain open and have — in theory — open seats ready to be filled, she said. But in practice those schools with open seats have waiting lists because they use that space for the arts or a library, Clark said .

“If you look at those numbers, you’ll find there are over 2,000 empty seats according to CPS’ own formula at some of the most coveted schools in the district, the magnet schools that enroll children in a citywide lottery,” Clark said, citing Apples 2 Apples analysis by a professional researcher and CPS parent. “You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say that we’re going to use this formula when it comes time to close schools but then when it comes time to open up seats in some of the most desirable schools in the district say it doesn’t work.”

CPS said Monday it has already enrolled about 78 percent of CPS students from facilities set to close, many in new “welcoming schools.”

“I am encouraged to see so many parents from closing schools already choosing to early enroll their children in their new school,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.

Of the 11,800 students attending closing schools — that’s 3-year-olds currently enrolled in preschool and kids in grades K-7 — about 9,200 have enrolled in new schools, according to district figures. Twelve of the 47 elementary schools closing in June signed up 100 percent of their students in new schools, many of them at the schools recommended by CPS, though at Henson Elementary School on the West Side, 80 percent opted not to go to the suggested Charles Hughes Elementary School.

CPS said it will continue to reach out to the remaining parents with phone calls, text messages, emails, letters and fliers. Last year when the district closed just four schools, it could not account for about five percent of the children it displaced.

Last month, the Chicago Board of Education voted to approve Byrd-Bennett’s recommendation to shutter 50 schools, 47 elementary schools plus a high school program in June. Federal civil-rights lawsuits to delay the closings for at least a year won’t be heard until July, and the Chicago Teachers Union is also suing in Circuit Court to stop closures in 10 elementary schools.

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