The Chicago school district has backed off plans to close three poorly performing South Side high schools this summer and will instead phase them out over three years.
The Chicago Tribune reports that Harper, Hope and TEAM Englewood high schools will remain open until students who are now freshmen have an opportunity to graduate. District administrators say they will stick with their plan to close a fourth campus—Robeson High School—this summer and after razing it, constructing an $85 million high school campus.
The change in facility plans, announced by Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson, comes after public hearings where residents and community activists criticized the proposal to close all four schools in the Englewood neighborhood at the end of this academic term.
Students attending Harper, Hope and TEAM Englewood can remain at those schools as they wind down operations, or leave for surrounding schools.
"We’re trying to compromise here," Jackson says, "and give people an opportunity to stay, who want to stay—but also give people an opportunity to leave, who want to leave.”
Harper, Hope and Robeson rank among the city's most under-capacity, underperforming and financially struggling high schools.
No new freshmen will be assigned to Harper, Hope and TEAM Englewood as they are being phased out; that means that by the time they close, only seniors would remain.
A previously announced plan to expand the boundaries of four South Side neighborhood high schools to take in students displaced by the proposed closings remains in place. That would give students the option of transferring into one of those programs before the new high school opens.
The four high schools in the Englewood neighborhood have a track record of steady enrollment declines and poor academic performance. This fall they reported a combined enrollment of about 450 students.
District leaders told parents those problems could worsen if the schools were gradually phased out of existence instead of being closed outright. The district had contended that students, with the proper support, would find a better high school experience elsewhere in the system.
In discussing the about face, Jackson says: "My personal opinion cannot be the only opinion that matters. The outcry for these schools to remain open, and to allow the students to transition and graduate with their class—it was great."