An eleventh-hour miracle saved Peabody Elementary and five other schools from a Chicago Public Schools plan to close or re-staff 22 public schools.
Only a day after last Monday’s reprieve, there’s a sense of relief and excitement among Peabody’s students and staff, said Annie Camacho, the assistant principal.
“It’s as if someone had a heart attack and now they’re recovered,” she said.
Peabody and 15 other schools were targeted because of dramatic declines in enrollment over the last decade. Last year, Peabody enrolled 258 students, about half of the 478 students it had in 2000, according to Illinois Sate Board of Education data. The other six schools were targeted for academic deficiencies.
According to a district survey of facility capacity, Peabody this year was using only 35 percent of its potential. Schools targeted for low enrollment fall below 50 percent of its capacity. The formula counts all rooms designed as classrooms multiplied by 30, the number of potential students it can hold. But the measure does not account for classroom space used for other purposes, such as offices, computer labs or storage. It also includes in the equation the art and music classrooms, used by all students but counting as a separate classroom.
Peabody, on the West Side, was saved because of an oversight in this year’s survey data and the strength of the school’s test scores, a district spokeswoman said. Prior to Monday’s decision, only one school had ever been removed from the list.
Abbott Elementary, in Armour Square, was targeted last year because of a drop in enrollment. It eventually escaped the chopping block last year, but is back on the list this year. Peabody’s leaders seem equally aware that next year could be a different story, but Camacho and Principal Federico Flores said they are relieved for now.