WBEZ visits 2 Under-Enrolled schools
There’s an interesting story on WBEZ by Becky Vevea who visited a couple of the CPS-defined under-utilized schools to get a sense of what the space felt like and why enrollment was low.
The admin and teachers sound very dedicated, but it’s hard to justify keeping up buildings with so much empty space (and aggravating given how squished many other schools are.) If only we could shift the space somehow…
You can read or listen to the story here:
Some key points and excerpts:
There is Drake Elementary school in Bronzeville with 243 students which makes it 40% full by CPS standards. For grades K-8, that’s an average of 27 kids per grade. But with CPS’ formula, a school with that enrollment will not get one teacher per grade, so the school has several split grade classes that are large. And quite a few empty classrooms. It’s a level 3 school. 82% of the students are low income. There used to be housing projects nearby that have been closed or shifted to mix-income housing, which has lead to a declining population. The principal is concerned that if planned development happens, the population of kids will grow again, leading to another need for classroom space.
The principal says:
“I really do enjoy having a school under 300 students, our being a family. I can know students by name, know their parents when they walk in the building, I think that establishes really good relationships with parents and students,” Warner said. “I can actually keep up with them when I’m looking at data, I know who that number, that’s just a percentage on paper, but I know who that child is, to speak to them the next day.”
Another school, Till, with 477 kids is also at 40% capacity in the South Woodlawn neighborhood (also Level 3, 97% low income.) But the school “feels” more full given that they have more classrooms filled because the principal uses discretionary funds to “buy” additional teaching spots. (Drake may need to use this money to buy a couple other things that they don’t get because they’re so small.) But Till has 2 buildings, each with an empty-ish top floor. The principal prefers to keep the buildings separate.
“I think with the older kids and the younger kids, it needs to be a clear delineation,” The Principal said. “The development process for older kids is totally different.”