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Teachers union blasts proposed guidelines for school closures

Updated: November 4, 2013 12:08PM

The Chicago Teachers Union on Wednesday blasted proposed guidelines for closing schools that now include shuttering buildings in poor condition, accusing Chicago Public Schools of looking for loopholes in its commitment not to close schools for five years.

“Once again, CPS demonstrates it cannot be trusted to tell the truth about its future plans for our school district,” union spokeswoman Stephanie Gadlin said. “Their decision to modify their promise of a five-year moratorium on school closings is a smack in the face to the parents, teachers and students who are working so hard to secure vital resources for their neighborhood schools.”

CPS, which closed a record number of schools in June for being too empty, said the new state-required guidelines released Tuesday spells out how the district can proceed in case a building’s conditions threaten the safety of students. CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said last fall she would not close any more schools for five years if given more time to figure out how best to close schools.

Spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the moratorium was always for poor academic performance or lack of students — the two reasons the district has closed schools in the past, so no promises have been broken.

“Our commitment to a five-year moratorium on closing schools is clear,” she said Wednesday, adding that the latest guidelines were still in draft form and awaiting lots of feedback. “In the event that a school facility places an immediate threat to the life or safety of students and staff, we must have criteria in place to address that situation — a situation that is highly unlikely to occur...We’re just being prepared.”

CTU vice president Jesse Sharkey accused CPS of changing its tune.

“They’re clearly looking for the next round of schools to close down and looking for a way to wiggle out of their promises,” he said.

“Last year, Barbara Byrd-Bennett is going around saying, ‘This is going to be the end of school closings for five years’,” he said. Now, he said, it’s “Oh, we’re reserving the right to close schools for different kinds of reasons.”


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