Now that CPS closed all those schools, what's the district going to do with the extra space?
The Chicago Tribune reports that three out of 47 elementary schools shuttered last year due to below-average student enrollment are being shopped to possible bidders for commercial use. The fates of another seven will be up for debate at aldermen-led community meetings. Most facilities stand dormant, prone to vandalism.
Per CPS' request, City Council members whose wards had school closings are leading a bottom-up effort to meet with constituents and let them decide a building's new purpose. Twenty-seventh Ward Ald. Walter Burnett Jr., who has six buildings on his roster, is none too pleased with the progress.
"I think it's moving slow," Burnett Jr. told Trib. "For me to have all these meetings, my schedule doesn't allow me to do it immediately. It should be (CPS) doing this, but they're asking us to do it because they're trying to be sensitive to the community and the aldermen. That type of sensitivity takes time."
CPS, meanwhile, has agreed not to hand over the properties to alternative charter schools, which are privately run and publicly funded and a sore subject in Chicago. (Many Chicagoans felt slighted by public school closings in their parts of town, and also by the district's increased funding for alt-education. Charters, sniffing an opportunity, have expressed interest in taking over the schools.)
According to the paper, the district is reportedly OK with how things are progressing and is looking at flipping the space into neighborhood-centric facilities as well as affordable housing.
Meanwhile, CPS is shelling out an annual sum of $1.8 million to maintain boarded-up vandal bait. Pending commercial and community interest -- if any -- CPS will need to "figure out something that the community would support and that CPS would not have to fund because at the end of the day we have to get these buildings off our books," said CPS exec Tom Tyrrell.