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CPS Facilities Plan and so-called 'Transparency' are both nonsense, as a close look at dozens of schools shows

As usual at year's end, Chicago Public Schools issued an important document and some very important information by press release, avoiding having Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard and members of his "team" try and explain their latest to the city's reporters without Brizard being under the watchful eye of Mayor Rahm Emanuel (who has been on a two-week vacation with his family in another hemisphere). As a result, on December 28, 2011, "Brizard" issued what CPS is calling a "facilities inventory" and plan by press release. Much was said about its transparency, and both the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune reported the story uncritically, citing even the ridiculous "standard" for school utilization as if it should be reported with a straight face.

One of the Power Points presented to the December 14, 2011, meeting of the Chicago Board of Education was the "Capital Budget." Although CPS officials claim that the facilities plan will be discussed in public and "transparent," the Capital Budget already makes the plan a "Done Deal", Chicago-styles, by allocating the money before the facilities plan is discussed with anyone. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Although CPS officials continue to claim that every step they are taking is unprecedented in its "transparency," as more and more people are becoming aware, the opposite is true. Whereas in the past, CPS has hosted as many as six regional hearings on its facilities plans, now that Illinois law requires a long-term plan, Brizard has scheduled one hearing, and that one is to take place in the CPS Central Office. "CPS will hold a public hearing on the proposals on March 6th, 2012 at 5:30 p.m. in the CPS Board Chambers, 125 S. Clark Street, 5th Floor, to gather input from the community and other CPS stakeholders," the December 28, press release states. "This input will be evaluated prior to finalizing the facility standards that will be adopted by CPS."

HERE IS THE CPS PRESS RELEASE:

For more information contact: CPS Office of Communications, Phone: 773-553-1620, Fax: 773-553-1622. Website: http://www.cps.edu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 28, 2011

CPS Increases Facility Standard Transparency... CPS releases guidelines and report on space utilization of schools across the district – shows 50% of schools are underutilized... Release includes complete database of CPS properties, capital review process, property leases and facility performance standards

CHICAGO – The Chicago Public Schools’ (CPS) today released a new set of transparent data and analysis of its facilities to comply with the requirements of Public Act 097-0474. For the first time, CPS released these documents for public review, including school by school utilization reports, a complete database of CPS properties, the capital review process and proposed facility performance standards on the CPS website, www.cps.edu/About_CPS/Policies_and_guidelines/Pages/facilitystandards.aspx.

“These reports illuminate the complex facility challenges facing our District,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “As we work to provide high quality school options for children in all communities, these reports and analyses will be helpful tools for guiding our decision making.”

The four reports posted today include:

Space Utilization Standards and School by School Reports

Included in these reports is a new formula to determine how each school is using its available classrooms and whether the school is considered efficient, underutilized, or overcrowded. The new formula considers elementary schools to be at optimum efficiency when using roughly 77 percent of its classrooms for general education homerooms, with 30 students per homeroom.

Schools that are within plus or minus 20 percent of the ideal enrollment are considered efficient. Schools with enrollments less than this efficiency range are considered underutilized while those with enrollments more than this efficiency range are considered overcrowded.

The report shows that approximately 50% of schools in the district are currently underutilized.

“These new standards will help us shape our long-term portfolio strategy to ensure that every child in every neighborhood has access to a world class education,” said Brizard.

Capital Needs Review Process

As CPS prepares to develop its capital improvement plan and a 10 –year educational master facility plan, the capital needs review process will serve as a key component to accurately assess the needs of schools throughout the district. There are two ways in which CPS will assess the capital needs of its facilities:

· A self-assessment form to be completed by school administrators. This form will allow the staff at each school to perform its own assessment, as they have an intimate knowledge of the issues within their building, and report any potential concerns to the Department of Operations.

· A detailed biennial assessment of each facility operated by the district that will be conducted every two years (this was previously done every three years) by a team of architects and engineers that are able to diagnose issues that may not be apparent to the staff working within the building.

This two-step process will allow CPS to better understand the conditions at every school and most importantly, allow CPS to prioritize projects so that the schools with the most critical needs are addressed in a timely manner. These tools are critical to create better educational environments for students to adequately prepare them for college and career.

Proposed Facility Performance Standards

In order to ensure that CPS facilities support educational functions and student safety, these proposed standards were developed to provide guidance for future renovations and new construction projects. The standards will provide optimum and minimum facility performance standards for acoustics, ADA accessibility, thermal comfort, daylight, indoor air quality, furniture ergonomics, technology, life safety, plumbing and washroom access, environmental hazards, and walkability.

The minimum standards are developed to ensure that renovation projects provide spaces that are conducive to learning while at the same time address the existing constraints of the building. The optimal standards are developed to provide guidance for the design and construction of new school buildings. CPS will hold a public hearing on the proposals on March 6th, 2012 at 5:30 p.m. in the CPS Board Chambers, 125 S. Clark Street, 5th Floor, to gather input from the community and other CPS stakeholders. This input will be evaluated prior to finalizing the facility standards that will be adopted by CPS.

Database of CPS Properties

This searchable database includes a list of all properties, both owned and leased. The database includes addresses, property names, zip codes, own/lease categorization, and copy of leases (if applicable).

The Chicago Public Schools serves approximately 405,000 students in more than 675 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school system.

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