Fifty shuttered Chicago Public Schools should either be shifted to other government agencies or school uses, competitively bid to community groups and developers or demolished, a mayoral commission proposed Friday, the Sun-Times is reporting.
The “immediate re-purposing” of schools would begin with the controversial decision disclosed last year by the Chicago Sun-Times: to make shuttered Lafayette Elementary School the new and permanent home of the Chicago High School for the Arts.
The school known as ChiArts was originally scheduled to move to the soon-to-be-replaced Malcolm X College when a new college is built. But high maintenance costs for the old college building prompted Mayor Rahm Emanuel to nix the idea in favor of using Lafayette, 2714 W. Augusta.
The decision is controversial, since parents, students and teachers were promised when Lafayette and the other 49 schools were closed that they would not re-open, at least as charter schools. Since ChiArts is a “contract” school, the mayor can claim the promise was kept. To some observers, there is little difference between the two.
Two other shuttered schools will also be immediately “re-purposed,” thanks to recommendations made by the school closing commission.
William King Elementary, 740 S. Campbell, will be shifted to the city’s Department of Fleet and Facilities Management to “consolidate several facilities into one” and, ultimately, save the city money.
John Fiske Elementary, 6145 S. Ingleside, will be temporarily used by the Woodlawn Children’s Promise Community to house community health programs.
The remaining 47 shuttered schools will be offered to community groups and other interested parties in a “competitive process” that will begin shortly.
Potential uses have already been suggested for a number of properties, including urban farming; tutoring and mentoring; health clinics; arts and community centers; affordable housing for seniors and “re-configuration as a contract school to serve at-risk students.”
If “community or financial benefit” is not “immediately apparent,” shuttered schools could be transferred to an “external partner” with expertise in real estate planning and community development.
Acknowledging that the process of finding new uses “cannot continue indefinitely,” the report states, “Ultimately, structures on the properties that remain after the full re-purposing process may need to be demolished.” The goal is to “minimize the number of properties that fall into that category,” the report states.
Source: CBS Chicago