CPS releases guidelines on school closures, wants feedback - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

CPS releases guidelines on school closures, wants public feedback

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The new CPS chief has set a new course for handling budget problems. Barbara Byrd-Bennett outlined her plans before business leaders Friday, and wants an extension to one key deadline.

The deadline for announcing school closures is less than a month away. She's been on the job for 10 days. But Byrd-Bennett has already put together a nine-member commission and requested to delay the deadline so the community can be fully engaged.

Barbara Byrd-Bennett announced her plans regarding school closings at the Chicago Urban League Friday morning. CPS officials released a draft of guidelines for school closures on their website on Thursday.

She said the schools will not be closed based on performance as they were in the past. But more than 100 school buildings are under-utilized and schools will have to be closed to beat next year's looming budget deficit.

"We have to make some very tough decisions," Byrd-Bennett said. "Hence the need to have those community conversations up front, before a decision is made, so the decisions can be informed."

She wants five months to exchange information with the community about school closures. Although using resources in the best possible way is an important factor, the new CPS chief said community feedback is even more integral to making that decision.

The Illinois mandate says those decisions be turned in by Dec. 1. She wants to move the deadline to March 31, just this one time.

Reaching out to CPS communities has been tried in the past, but thought to be somewhat disingenuous. But Byrd-Bennett addressed just that point, and spoke on her adjustment to policy Friday morning.

There's been a lot of concern about closing schools in Chicago, and so far she said no decision versus been made. No action will be taken until the community has a chance to weigh in.

The Chicago Teachers Union supports the new chief's approach and attitude, saying school closings seemed like random real estate decisions in the past.

It's a new era, and Barbara Byrd-Bennett admits that cps has no credibility with the community. She's trying to repair it with the students, teachers, and the parents who are all affected by the September teachers' strike - the first one in 25 years.

Byrd-Bennett has a nine-member commission of community leaders and former officers and elected officers in place to handle the community meetings, where she hopes the public will make their voices heard.

She also said Friday that the Chicago Public School Board is lacking in diversity at the top, and she wants more Latino decision-makers.

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