Independent hearing officers tasked with reviewing Chicago Public Schools' list of 54 slated closings are opposing 14 of the proposed shutterings saying those schools don't meet the state standards that warrant a shutdown.
Hearing officers opposed the closing of Buckingham, Calhoun North, Delano, Mahalia Jackson, King, Manierre, Mayo, Morgan, Near North, Overton, Stewart, Stockton, and Williams Multiplex and Williams Preparatory Academy, according to WGN.
In the list that was made public Tuesday morning, hearing officers cited a wide range of reasons for opposing the 14 closures, including safety of students and lack of proof students were actually being moved to better-performing schools.
In one instance, welcoming school Melody Elementary — which according to the district would be a better-performing institution than Delano, which is slated for closure — was actually on academic probation, while Delano was not, according to CBS Chicago.
The closings of Stewart and Stockton on the North Side were also questioned, with hearing officers motioning to table closings at least until the 2014-2015 school year. According to the Tribune, retired judge Charles Winkler blasted the district's failure to take safety into account when proposing the shuttering of Stewart.
"Will an understaffed Chicago Police Department be able to provide enough officers to assist" the children, Winkler asked. "Is there really enough time to get everyone up to speed so the 14,400 children from the closing schools are provided safe passage?"
On closing Mahalia Jackson, hearing officer David H. Coar wrote that the safety of Auburn Gresham neighborhood students trumped the “generalities” and “vague promises“ made in the reorganization plan, the Sun-Times reports.
The district's response to the hearing officers' list has appeared to be stubbornly defiant, with CPS General Counsel James Bebley quarreling with the hearing officers' "expertise" on issues like safety.
In written responses to the hearing officers' recommendations, Bebley said he "respectfully" disagreed with the recommendations, according to DNAinfo Chicago. Singling out Coar, according to the Sun-Times Bebley said the hearing officer “exceeded the scope of his authority.”
In the days before the hearing officers released their recommendations, the district quietly lowered its estimated cost savings from the unpopular school closings. According to WBEZ, the district overestimated saving by $122 million, or 20 percent.
The independent reviewers submitted their list just before the midnight deadline Monday. The Chicago Board of Education is scheduled to take a final vote on the closures on May 22.