Chicago’s next mayor will have to decide what to do with dozens of dwindling high schools that the district says don’t have enough students.
An analysis of schools released by the district labels 38 high schools as “underutilized,” meaning there are not enough students to fill the school or use the space well. Schools that receive this designation have been slated for closure in the past.
The district created a formula to rank schools into three categories: underutilized, efficient, and overcrowded. But the formula, which calls for each classroom to have 30 students, has also been the target of criticism for not fully taking into account how the space is used, and not opening up space for community centers.
The utilization calculations set a stark picture for high schools in the district amid an ongoing enrollment crisis.
The vast majority of buildings designated as underutilized have fewer than half the number of recommended students. Hirsch High School, in the Greater Grand Crossing neighborhood, has 100 students in a building that holds more than 1,000. Manley Career Academy High School, in East Garfield Park, meanwhile, has 83 students in a building that could house 1,488.
District chief Janice Jackson has created a fund for small schools — with a focus on schools with low enrollment — to help sustain teachers and programs, and encouraged principals to apply for popular programs such as International Baccalaureate. These are part of Jackson’s ongoing efforts to bolster shrinking schools.
Meanwhile the issue has become a topic of debate in the mayor’s race. Both Susana Mendoza and Toni Preckwinkle have said they’d use empty spaces to open up community centers within schools.
Use the database below to look up your school and see its 2018-2019 building utilization score, how many students are enrolled, and the building’s ideal capacity.