What CPS calls “underutilized”

January 23, 2013

Rory Fanning talked to teachers and parents to hear what they have to say about the Chicago Public Schools' threat to close Gale Elementary.

I WENT to a parent-teacher meeting to save Gale Elementary School in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. I learned a lot.

Some 550 students go to Gale, yet it is on the list of more than 100 of "underutilized" schools that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett want to close.

Gale is slated for closure because it doesn't meet CPS's formula for efficiently teaching students. What is this formula based on? In part, the ratio of homeroom classes to ancillary rooms. Too many ancillary rooms and too few homerooms is considered an unnecessary use of space at CPS.

Here's the list of ancillary rooms at Gale. You decide if they're unnecessary:

Room 307 is a primary science lab that is used everyday for experiments. Apparently, CPS thinks science labs are redundant and science should be taught in homerooms.

Room 309 is a primary art room.

Room 305 ifs a primary music room.

Room 303 is the "peace room," where kids get counseling--Gale has a high number of students with mental health issues. It's no surprise that CPS would consider such a room "unnecessary" given the low priority it places on mental health services.

Teachers, parents and supporters gathered outside Gale Elementary during the Chicago Teachers Union strike
Teachers, parents and supporters gathered outside Gale Elementary during the Chicago Teachers Union strike (Larry J. MacDonald | Substance News)

Room 301 is a special education resource room.

Room 300 houses damaged furniture, something a school like Gale, with very little storage space, has to consider.

Room 201 is a parent resource room. In this room, parents can look for jobs and offers of child care, and community meetings are held. The federal No Child Left Behind law mandates that every schools have a room that can be used for parent development. But CPS still counts them as unnecessary.

Room 202 is a bilingual resource room, used particularly for ESL students.

Room 203 is a counseling and case management room.

Rooms 103 through 105 are Head Start rooms.

There's a greenhouse at Gale, which CPS apparently considers a frivolous luxury, despite the fact that it's used to teach students healthy eating habits and for school fundraising. Yields from the greenhouse are sold at the Rogers Park farmers' market.

Gale is a stabilizing force in one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country. If this school goes, Rogers Park will lose a place that unites people from all over the world, including a high number of refugees. Parents also say that if Gale is closed, you can be sure that gang violence will increase in Rogers Park, because kids will be thrown into schools outside of gang lines.

Despite the many challenges Gale confronts--poverty, a lot of mental health problems among the students--scores on the ISAT standardized test have been steadily improving.

On January 28, parents and teachers will be attending a community meeting at Truman College at 7 p.m., to argue why Gale Elementary should stay open. They will be citing some of the information above, along with a lot more. The parents and teachers, along with the activists who support them, hope you can make the meeting to show solidarity and support for not only students and teachers, but Rogers Park as a whole.

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