Barbara Byrd-Bennett, the CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, addresses major investment plans for schools receiving students from schools on the final school-closings list.
Chicago Public Schools officials said Thursday they plan to close 54 schools in an effort to address the district's $1 billion deficit, make better use of resources and improve education in the nation's third-largest district.
District CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett on Thursday announced which schools would be targeted for closure. She and Mayor Rahm Emanuel have said the closures are needed because too many CPS buildings have too many open seats.
The plan will affect about 30,000 students, district officials said.
"Every child in every neighborhood in Chicago deserves access to a high quality education that prepares them to succeed in life, but for too long children in certain parts of Chicago have been cheated out of the resources they need to succeed because they are in underutilized, under-resourced schools," Byrd-Bennett said in a statement.
Emanuel said too much money was being spent on maintaining underutilized school buildings instead of investing in students.
"By consolidating these schools, CPS can focus on safely getting every child into a better performing school," he said. "Like school systems in New York and Philadelphia where schools are being closed, Chicago must make tough choices."
News began trickling out Wednesday afternoon as to which school programs and buildings would be shuttered.
At Trumbull Elementary School, a parent and school board member confirmed to NBC Chicago earlier in the day that the school was closing and that a letter would go home to parents.
Indeed, Trumbull is on the list.
The news was a shock to parents who knew the school was under consideration to close but hoped the school's high percentage of special education students would keep it open.
In addition to the 54 school closures, students at 11 other schools will be "co-located" with existing schools. Six schools have been targeted for academic interventions known as "turnaround."
Byrd-Bennett made the rounds on morning television Wednesday, trying to soften the blow to parents upset by school closures by announcing investment plans for the remaining "welcoming schools." As she mentioned to NBC Chicago on Tuesday, Byrd-Bennett promised climate controls, libraries, and music and science labs among the enhancements in a $233 million investment plan.
But to the Chicago Teachers Union, a single school closure is one too many and 50 or more would be catastrophic for the district.
"This city cannot destroy that many schools. It will send our district into chaos," CTU President Karen Lewis said in a statement. "These actions will put our students safety and academics at risk and will further destabilize our neighborhoods."
More than 300 schools were initially eyed for closure. That number was dwindled to 129 schools last month when Byrd-Bennett announced more specific criteria as to which schools might be affected to deal with what she called a "utilization crisis."
Byrd-Bennett has said the district has about 100,000 more seats than students at a time the district is facing a $1 billion deficit. Each closed school, she's said, would ultimately save the district between $500,000 and $800,000, saving the district $560 million over 10 years in capital costs and an additional $43 million per year in operating costs.
Lewis said those figures are an outright lie.
"School closings will not save money and taxpayers will not see costs benefits in two years," she said. "Vibrant school communities quickly transform into abandon buildings, neighborhood eyesores and public safety hazards."
A number of teachers are certain to lose their jobs as a result of any action. District officials said they couldn't calculate how many teachers will be laid off as a result of the cuts because school leaders will make decisions about their own budgets.
The teachers union has planned a March 27 rally to protest the pending school closures. The Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote on the proposed closures on May 22.
List of School Closures / Consolidations:
View CPS School Closing Map in a full screen map
The Associated Press contributed to this report.