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CPS Pledges To Invest In Schools That Receive Students From Closings

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As the Chicago Public Schools prepares to announce its final list of schools that will be closed or consolidated at the end of the school year, district officials were promising investments for schools that receive affected students.

Despite a projected $1 billion budget deficit for next school year, CPS Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett said the district will make sure schools receiving students displaced by closings will have additional resources.

Any school receiving extra students will have a library; air conditioning; computer and science technology upgrades; and counseling and social work support.

In addition, any special education student displaced by a school closing will be reassigned to a school that can implement an Individualized Education Program – which describes what a special ed student needs.

"By consolidating schools, we're going to be able to really focus on resourcing those welcoming schools for our children," Byrd-Bennett said on the CBS 2 Morning News on Wednesday. "We're looking forward to this as an opportunity to really focus on providing our children what they deserve and need."

The resources provided by the district will be funded through the cost savings accomplished by closing under-utilized schools.

The district has said it's too costly to keep all of its school buildings open, when it has 330 schools it considers under-utilized. Of those, nearly 140 are more than half empty, and 129 have been placed on a preliminary list of school closings.

An independent commission has recommended the district close or consolidate no more than 80 schools.

A final list of school closings is due by March 31, but Byrd-Bennett has said it will be released within the next week.

She said the process of selecting which schools to close has been "incredibly challenging."

"As a mom, and a grandmom, I get it. Schools belong to communities, and people feel very attached to their schools. However, as an educator – and I think that moms understand as well – we really want the best for our children, we want to ensure that they have the tools that they need to succeed."

She said CPS officials heard from more than 20,000 people at a series of 34 community meetings on school closings earlier this year, before making any final decisions on which schools to close or consolidate.

The Chicago Teachers Union opposes the closures, arguing truancy will spike, and that the closings will unfairly impact homeless students or low-income families.

Some Chicago aldermen had joined the union in urging state lawmakers to pass legislation that would have imposed a two-year moratorium on school closings starting this year, but there were not enough votes for a moratorium at a Senate committee hearing on Tuesday.

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