The only district-run school that Chicago intends to shutter this school year is one with not a single student.
That’s according to the city’s proposal to close Hope High School, one of four schools that Chicago Public Schools decided in 2018 to phase out in Englewood, where declining enrollment meant that local high schools drew so little funding that they struggled to serve their students. Instead, the district said it would open a new high school to serve the whole area.
The school stopped admitting new students in 2018, and every student who was enrolled then has either graduated or moved on.
With no students left, the city is seeking to formally close Hope’s doors in June 2020.
The district is inviting feedback from community members at public meetings next month, a requirement of all school closures. Already, the city teachers union has issued a fiery response.
“So this is how a school—one with more than 40 years of history that includes a state champion girls basketball team, multiple city champion debate teams, a featured role in the video for a single on a Grammy-nominated album and myriad positive impacts on thousands of students and families’ lives—officially ends?” the union’s statement says. “With a procedural press release?”
The union opposes all school closures, which have been an abiding and wrenching feature of the city’s schools for nearly two decades.
Since 2001, at least 16 public schools have closed in Englewood while charters continue to open, some only blocks away from schools struggling with depopulation. Six neighborhood schools closed in 2013, when the city shuttered 50 schools in one swoop.
Of the four Englewood high schools that the city decided to phase out, two — Robeson High School and TEAM Englewood — have already shuttered. Harper High School is still in the phaseout process.
This fall, the city also opened a new open-enrollment high school, STEM Englewood High School, in an $85 million new building feature freshly painted with murals featuring Afrocentric designs and young people of color dressed as doctors and scientists. A demand from community activists distressed by what was happening to high schools in the neighborhood, the school took in more than 400 freshman its first year.
But even as the new school is lauded for its competitive academic programs and impressive new building, parents and students at Harper High School said they think one open-enrollment high school in the area is not enough.
“There are more than enough people in Englewood … for more than one high school,” Jitu Brown, national director of Journey for Justice Alliance, told the Chicago Sun-Times.
The district gave high schools taking in students from Hope $6,100 per student in supplemental funding for the next two years, a nod to criticism that students moving because of school closures in the past didn’t receive enough district support.
The city says Hope is the only district-run school it intends to close next year. Three charter schools are being considered for closure: Chicago Virtual Charter School, Chicago Collegiate and Frazier Charter School.
Four other charter schools are on the district warning list, meaning that they could face closure next year. They include Urban Prep in Englewood, CICS Ellison and Longwood and Learn-7.
Parents, students and community members will have the chance to comment on the city’s proposal to close Hope at three community meetings: 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Jan. 14 and Jan. 23 at Kershaw Elementary; and 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Jan. 29 at CPS headquarters at 42 W. Madison.