Under pressure from community groups and schools, CPS issued new guidelines for school closings to deploy extra staff to help ease transitions for kids displaced by closings, and provide temporary relief for schools that are taking in those students.
Guidelines issued in January outline new supports, such as counseling for concerned families, but not in much detail, some school reform advocates observe.
For instance, the district is promising to send support teams to counsel families about the transition to their new schools. The support teams will consist of staff from central office—including the CEO’s office and community relations—but the guidelines do not spell out what those individuals will actually do, says Laurene Heybach, attorney for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. “I don’t think a family looking at that guideline would know that there are any services being offered.”
What’s missing, says Executive Director Jacqueline Leavy of the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, is in-depth information for parents about new schools and a chance to air any concerns about safety or transportation.
Supports for receiving schools are likewise inadequate, she says. The district is offering additional staff to help with the transitions for one week at the start of the school year. However, some high schools have reported increased violence after taking in hundreds of displaced students. Those schools may need months, if not a year, of additional support in the form of counseling and tutoring for students, Leavy argues. “To have one week at the beginning of the school year to help schools deal with the intake is almost laughable.”
The new policy also maintains previous guidelines to continue transportation and other services for disabled students who are displaced, and to provide seats for displaced students in reopened “renaissance” schools.