Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS leaders treaded lightly as they announced school actions for this year, holding true to a promise made by CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett by declining to close schools.

According to state law, CPS must announce actions by Dec. 1. 

The only two actions being planned are to move Urban Prep’s Bronzeville campus to the building currently being used by Chicago High School for the Arts at 521 E. 35th St., known as ChiArts, and to have Frazier Prep Charter School share the Herzl Elementary building at 3711 W. Douglas.

Urban Prep currently shares a building with Drake Elementary at 2710 S. Dearborn. Drake expanded this year because it received students from the closed Williams.

CPS leaders say they haven’t identified a “final,” permanent location for ChiArts High, though parents of the school’s students received a letter saying that Lafayette, a shuttered school across town in East Humboldt Park, is likely to be the new location.

Moving ChiArts to Lafayette is controversial because parents point out that it is not a central location and will be difficult for South Side students to travel to. In addition, ChiArts is a contract school and some view its possible relocation in a closed school as a violation of Byrd-Bennett’s promise not to turn over shuttered schools to charters.

Since Chi Arts moved into its current location in 2011, CPS has spent more than $9 million renovating its space.

The other move will put Frazier Prep, which is a low-performing charter school in North Lawndale, in a building with a low-performing elementary. CPS says the move will allow Frazier International, which is currently sharing a building with Frazier Prep, to expand from 265 students to eventually 930 students. Frazier International is a high performing school.

What that would mean for Herzl is unclear. Herzl is a turnaround school run by the Academy for Urban School Leadership. But it is among the lowest-rated schools in the district and its enrollment dropped from 554 students in the 2012-2013 school year to 421 students this year.

The fact that CPS did not propose more co-locations is a bit surprising. Because of Byrd-Bennett’s promise not to hand over vacant school buildings to charters, new charters are searching for locations.

Even with this year’s closings of 49 schools, about 100 schools are half-full, including 13 neighborhood high schools.  CPS officials have laid out no plans for these high schools, except to say that co-locations with charter schools are an option.

Closing them is a dicey proposition. Not only is Byrd-Bennett’s moratorium in place, but moving high school students has in the past led to violence. 

This story has been corrected. It orginally said that the Frazier magnet would be sharing a building with Herzl. It is actually Frazier charter school that will be moving in with Herzl, if the board approves these plans.

Sarah is the deputy editor of Catalyst Chicago.

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