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CPS School Closings: Hearing Heats Up Ahead Of Release Of Preliminary Closure List

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks, accompanied by Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a news conference, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, in Chicago.” (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett speaks, accompanied by Mayor Rahm Emanuel at a news conference, Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, in Chicago.” (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Updated story

Two days ahead of the release of a preliminary list of Chicago Public Schools that are slated to be closed, Alderman Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st) was practically booed off the stage during a heated community hearing on school closures.

A video of the Monday hearing was posted on YouTube on Wednesday showing Moreno, who was criticized after siding with the city during last fall's teacher strike in Chicago, being drowned out by boos from parents and advocates while attempting to address the crowd.

The video illustrates the impassioned pleas that have come from parents, students and other community members that have been on display at hearings a CPS-appointed commission has held on the matter in recent weeks.

Early Wednesday evening, CPS released a list of 129 schools being considered for closure. The list is not final and district officials told DNAinfo that other schools not on the list could still face other actions "like co-location, or being a receiving school, or something of that nature."

Last month, the shouts of community members at a hearing at Truman College similarly drowned out district officials who were expected to present school metrics. Last week, at a meeting on the city's West Side, police barricaded the doors as more than a thousand people gathered to discuss closures at the Arturo Velasquez Institute's auditorium, DNAinfo reported.

Meanwhile, a group of Chicago parents called Parents 4 Teachers on Tuesday announced that they had filed a complaint with the CPS Inspector General James M. Sullivan. The group is seeking an investigation into the process by which CPS officials have determined which schools it plans to close, according to WBEZ, and has accused the district-appointed closing commission of having conflicts of interest tied to charter school networks.

"Someone from the outside needs to come in and shine a light on what’s going on at central office, they need to see what’s going on behind closed doors and make that information available to the public," Parents 4 Teachers cofounder Erica Clark told the station.

A full list of CPS school closings will not be released until late next month, after the hearings have concluded, because the Illinois state legislature and Gov. Pat Quinn previously granted the district a deadline extension. In the meantime, another round of CPS-led hearings on the upcoming closings will also begin Wednesday.

While CPS has claimed that it must close schools it has deemed "underutilized" in order to save the reportedly cash-strapped district money, critics of the plan have questioned the math involved, arguing that closing dozens of schools would actually cost the district more money than it would save. Per a Truthout story by Curtis Black published on Sunday:

Publicly, CPS has projected annual savings of $500,000 to $800,000 for each school closed. Privately, their estimates are lower – as low as $140,000 per school. And they estimate that upfront closing costs, including severance pay, security, and moving costs, could be as high as $4.5 million per school, potentially wiping out any savings for many years.

CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett last month announced the district will spare high schools and "high-performing" schools from closure. CPS has previously flagged as many as 330 schools as underutilized, according to Catalyst Chicago.

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