A Chicago Public Schools plan to close four high schools on the city’s South Side has been met with an avalanche of criticism, including from students in the area.
“It makes me feel like I’m worthless,” Harper High School student Traivon O’Neil said.
O’Neil was one of several students who staged a sit-in at the high school on Friday. Harper is one of four in the neighborhood that CPS is planning on closing to make way for a privately-operated new $85 million charter school that is slated to open in the fall of 2019.
The plan has been criticized by the Chicago Teacher’s Union and elected officials, including State Representative Sonya Harper.
“Four high schools closing at one time will only add to the instability of a community that is already struggling with the highest rates of unemployment, crime, food insecurity, and a lack of housing for families,” she said.
Harper, Hope, Robeson, and Team Englewood are all set to close in June as part of the plan, meaning that hundreds of students in those schools will have to transfer to different institutions for the 2018-19 school year.
“I feel very confident in the transition plan we have in place to support the 330 students left at these 4 schools but at the end of the day as an educator as a parent I believe this is what best for the children,” CPS Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson said.
According to CPS, students at the affected schools will be provided individualized transition plans, and the opportunity to attend higher-performing schools in the area.
“We plan to sit down with the parent and the student to find out what transition is best for that child,” CPS steering committee member Darlene O’Bannon said.
Some students feel conflicted about the decision, citing the distance to their new schools and the potential extracurricular activities that they may be able to experience in a new building.
It’s tragic that it’s closing but there are more extracurricular activities I can be doing that this school doesn’t have,” student Javon Hairston said.
Some parents are still adamant that the school closures are the wrong move, and that the district should invest in buildings that are already standing.
“These are my kids, and this is our neighborhood,” Local Student Council Chairman Bobby Brown said. “Why are they always closing schools in our neighborhood?”