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Karee Magee/Medill

Justin Rucker, a first-grader at Calhoun, said to the panel, "Please don't close my school.  I love my school."

Calhoun North parents demand for their school to remain open

by Karee Magee
Apr 17, 2013

Marshetta Ross, mother of a fourth-grader at Calhoun North Elementary School, said that her son, who has cerebral palsy, was barely able to talk and couldn’t write before attending the school.

“The school has learned to work with him,” Ross said, adding that her son was beginning to feel like the rest of the children. “They’ve adapted to his needs, and him going to another school would be like hitting rock bottom all over again.”

Ross was among parents and teachers, of Calhoun in East Garfield Park, who renewed their chant for Chicago Public Schools to leave their school alone this week, presenting high performance and the school’s resources as reasons to keep the school open.

“There’s not anything wrong with our school,” said Mattie Ross, the fourth-grader’s grandmother. “Our grades are not low. Our school has everything they say they’re going to put in the other schools.”

The Calhoun public hearing at CPS headquarters Tuesday was one in the third round of community meetings that started early in the school year to allow parents to express their concerns about the closing process.

Calhoun was added to the proposed closing list because, according to CPS rules, the school is underutilized. Enrollment is 314 students this school year when the school is capable of enrolling between 552 and 828 students, according to CPS.

A CPS official said Thursday that the public hearings are a way for CPS to present that it is complying with state law, and independent hearing officers at those meetings take into consideration information presented by community members and submit their findings to the board.

“The only thing they can say is maybe years ago the enrollment was higher,” said Geraldine Young, a parent of 13-year-old Calhoun student. “The facilities are being utilized totally. The school that they’re transferring us to don’t have things that kids need.”

According to faculty, Calhoun offers two computer labs, laptops for students, and separate rooms for the library, gym, cafeteria and auditorium. The school provides four special education classes and a Head Start program.

“I feel as though my students will be disrupted,” said Carolyn McGee, special education teacher at Calhoun. “I feel like they will just be disrupted brought into a totally new environment, new peers from different neighborhoods.”

Student performance on standardized tests was the second criteria, and Calhoun is currently ranked as a Level 2 school, with Level 1 being the highest rank for test performance, and Level 3 being the lowest.

The teachers and parents at Calhoun insist that their school should be considered a Level 1 school and, therefore, be exempt from closing because the difference is a few tenths of a point.

According to David Montgomery, a science teacher and the data analyst for Calhoun, this is based on the test of one student who arrived to Calhoun in the middle of ISATs in the 2011-2012 school year, but he didn’t receive any instructional time at Calhoun prior to the test.

“If that student’s data is removed because he received zero days of instructional service, our score according to their performance policy, our current status score actually goes over 80 percent,” Montgomery said.

Calhoun would gain a point from the increase, which would make Calhoun a Level 1 school, Montgomery said.

According to the Linda Johnson McClinton, principal of Calhoun, 82 percent of Calhoun students have met or exceeded the testing standards for the 2011-2012 school year, and 81 percent of special education students met or exceeded the standards in math.

“I’m mad and I’m sad,” said Malik Flax, a sixth-grader at Calhoun. “I’m used to the teachers that help me at Calhoun because they’ve got a certain way of helping me. I don’t know if they’ll help me like the teachers at Calhoun did.”