CPS “stealth” closed Montefiore, its only therapeutic day school, by simply not placing any new students there, transferring out existing students and staff and then eliminating a program that served 7th through 12th Grade students who had emotional disorders so severe that their behaviors had led to previous expulsions from other schools within CPS. These are the kinds of kids who now have NO options within CPS other than expensive private placement in a therapeutic day school — the procurement of which often requires hiring an attorney, which is commonly impossible for low-income families. The kids that Montefiore served, one of whom was Laquan McDonald, are Emanuel’s “throw-away” population — young people who have mental illness, little employment opportunity and few coping skills and who, in the face of little or no appropriate intervention, become a statistic in Chicago’s shameful legacy of supporting a school-to-prison-pipeline.
Note to self: Don’t post an important, short informational video designed to help CPS kids with special needs keep busing service in their IEP’s on the day the glorious Cubs win the effin’ World Series. Repost said video on Sunday morning.
CPS is ramping up their latest version of special education funding cuts in new and creative ways, such as revoking busing service for many students under their “new” busing policies that limit services that in the past had been provided to students with special needs as a matter of course because it is in Federal Law under IDEA!. Here’s a quick video with some tips to help you protect busing service for your child with special needs.
*PET PEEVE ALERT!!!
CPS’s Special Education Department uses the moniker “ODLSS” which stands for Office of Diverse Learners Supports and Services, which is a HUGE pet peeve of mine. ALL learners are diverse, but not NOT ALL learners have a disability that impacts their learning to the point that they qualify for special education services under IDEA. The terms “Special Needs” and “Special Education” are in the Federal law that provides protections for students who have special needs. “Diverse Learners” is a fluffy, vague and deliberate marketing ploy to undermine the legality, weight and responsibility surrounding the challenges of educating students who have HUGE obstacles to overcome. Words matter. Special Education is Special Education.
I am now going to stable my high horse for the evening. His name is Jake.
Not a great plan…
Overcrowding is on my mind due to the proposed plan to close Kellogg Elementary (a wonderful, Level 1 neighborhood elementary school with 83.5% African-American enrollment) and send those students to nearby Sutherland. Per CPS’s numbers, this plan would immediately bring Sutherland to 136% “utilization capacity,” however, according the Municipal Code of the City of Chicago, occupying a Type IA Elementary School beyond 100% capacity constitutes overcrowding, and in this case, overcrowding by 36%.
Class size is a “classroom size” issue…
CPS regularly ignores the City of Chicago’s Fire Code which, out of concern for the life safety of students, teachers and staff, purposefully limits the usable classroom space to 20 square feet per person in a typical “corridor-type” school classroom. The 20 square feet per person calculation includes individual persons, including students (no matter how small), teachers (no matter how awesome), push-in special education teachers (no matter how phenomenal), and paraprofessionals (no matter how many or how wonderful). For example, if a classroom is 27’ x 20’, the maximum number of persons allowed in that classroom at any time is NO MORE THAN 27 TOTAL PERSONS!
Code enforcement to address overcrowding of classrooms in the City of Chicago is the responsibility of the Fire Commissioner’s Office. Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago has a Bureau of Fire Prevention with Inspectors who specialize in school inspections. It is their job to inspect public schools for all manner of fire code violations, least of which is overcrowding, because overcrowding of any school is considered dangerous and hazardous to life safety. Coincidentally, an overcrowded classroom is not conducive to learning, but I digress… Many of these fire codes pertaining to schools were written in the aftermath of the tragic Our Lady of the Angel’s School fire that killed 87 children and 3 Catholic nuns that occurred on December 1, 1958, right here in Chicago.
Is your child’s classroom dangerous and hazardous? Find out…
Let me walk you through how you can effectively determine if your child’s classroom is in compliance with the Municipal Code of Chicago with respect to classroom size. E-mail your school’s Principal and ask them to determine the square footage of each and every classroom your child may utilize throughout the day and compare it to the attendance record or number of chairs in each classrooms and count the maximum number of persons (not just students) who occupy that space at any given time. Ask the Principal to divide each classroom’s total square footage by 20. If there are more chairs or more people than this calculation allows, your child’s classroom is overcrowded. Overcrowding is not an average calculation. A classroom in a school is either overcrowded or in compliance with Title 13-56 of the Municipal Code of Chicago regarding “occupancy content determination.”
What do you want to bet?
Parental push-back of this kind could go one of two ways: (1) Chicago Fire Commissioner Jose Santiago could take a stand for the safety of school children and teachers and require that CPS comply with the Municipal Code of Chicago as it pertains to overcrowding in Title 13-56-310; or (2) CPS will continue to flout the Municipal Code and the Mayor and his cronies on the City Council will push through a change that weakens this code to the detriment of the safety and well-being of our children in Chicago Public Schools.
Meanwhile, back in the 19th Ward…
Alderman O’Shea has asked for ideas and solutions to the overcrowding problem at Mt. Greenwood and the structural needs at Esmond. His plan would close Kellogg and send those students to Sutherland, move Keller Regional Gifted Center to the Kellogg building and give Mt. Greenwood Elementary the Keller building. It seems to me that overcrowding Sutherland to alleviate overcrowding at Mt. Greenwood just perpetuates the overcrowding problem in the 19th Ward. We need more classroom space. For real.
A solution that works for everyone…
Here’s a possible solution. While I understand that the $20M Junior High Annex at CHSAS is no longer on the table and that investment from CPS must be worked out, CPS could build a classroom-heavy addition at Cassell and move Mt. Greenwood’s boundaries to alleviate Mt. Greenwood’s overcrowding. At the same time, CPS can step up and also invest in updating and repairing the school of our neighbors at Esmond. Overcrowding would be alleviated, children in special education cluster programs would not get pushed out of Mt. Greenwood and Cassell, Sutherland and Kellogg students who need instructional placement would get the classroom space they need and our neighbors at Esmond would get the long-overdue investment they deserve.
For-the-love-of-all-that-is-holy, kids with special needs need room for dedicated, school-specific, K through 8 instructional classrooms in their neighborhood home schools!
The proposed closure of Kellogg and the planned absorption of Kellogg students by Sutherland shuts down opportunity for students who may need instructional placement in their neighborhood home schools at both Kellogg and Sutherland (which requires, at minimum, 2 to 3 dedicated special education classrooms per school). Neighborhood schools need actual, protected, special-education classroom space that lies outside of CPS’s ludicrous and illegal utilization formula. We cannot continue to allow CPS to propagate the lie that all square footage is created equal because it discriminatorily refuses to include our neediest, most vulnerable children in projections and optimization numbers. We need a solution that works for ALL of the kids in the 19th Ward.
Forrest, scofflaw much?
And we need the Chicago Public School system to follow the Municipal Code.