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CPS budget cuts expected at Edwards and Gage Park, Catalyst-Maria receives more funding

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Two Southwest Side schools may suffer severe cuts after the Chicago Public School Board said that a reduction of $60 million in funding will occur unless legislators in Springfield can come up with an agreement.

Edwards Elementary School, 4815 S. Karlov Ave., was listed eighth among Chicago Public Schools in losing possible funding. The Archer Heights school could see a $929,461 reduction, according to CPS.

Gage Park High School, 5630 S. Rockwell St., is listed third in proposed cuts. Gage Park could see a reduction of $1,348,494, according to CPS.

Judith Sauri, principal at Edwards, was not available for comment. Edwards may see a reduction in funding because enrollment is dipping from 1,287 to a projected 1,215.{{more}}

The Chicago Teachers Union had previously wanted classroom sizes at Edwards to be reduced. CPS officials said that recently Edwards had over 30 children in each class in the first, second, third, fifth and eighth grades.

A $6.5 million addition is being built at Edwards to reduce the size of classrooms. Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Ald. Ed Burke (14th) visited the school last November. The school is in the district of state Rep. Dan Burke (D-1st), brother of Ed.

Additional masonry work is being done on the aging school, along with a new roof and an annex.

Gage Park High School could lose as many as 157 students, according to CPS. This could result in a projected $1.3 million in cuts. Gage Park could be left with a $2.7 million budget.

Brian Metcalfe, principal at Gage Park High School, was not available for comment.

While Edwards and Gage Park could see large reductions in fundings, other schools on the Southwest Side could see additional funding due to increasing enrollments.

Camelot Education, or Excel, offers a two-year program of classes for students ages 16 to 21 who may have dropped out of school but want to earn a high school diploma rather than get a GED.

Excel Academy Southwest operates out of the old St. Adrian School building at 7014 S. Washtenaw Ave. Excel Southwest may receive a boost of $3,504,451. Camelot Education has been operating out of St. Adrian since last October.

McKay Elementary School, 6901 S. Fairfield Ave., had previously been renting space for these students but pulled out when the Chicago Public Schools budget was not going to include additional funding.

Excel Southwest students began attending the St. Adrian site. They will be expanding into a second building at St. Adrian in September, according to the Rev. Thomas Mescall, pastor at St. Adrian.

Catalyst-Maria, a charter school that has been operating out of the old Maria High School site at 6727 S. California Ave., may receive an additional $1,463,135 in funding due to an increasing enrollment.

UNO Soccer Academy High School at 51st and Homan is also expected to receive an increase of $981,493. Enrollment is expected to increase from 637 to 720.

Katherine Konopasek, principal at Stevenson Elementary School, 8010 S. Kostner Ave., said there should be a moratorium on charter schools.

ÒInstead of opening more charter schools, I think they need to help our Level 2 and Level 3 schools,” said Konopasek.

Konopasek said enrollment is increasing at Stevenson and expects about 1,290 students at the start of the new year.

ÒWe are in good shape because we have had more students enrolling in Stevenson,” said Konopasek. ÒWe had a lot of families moving into the community and they are sending their kids to Stevenson.”

At this point, no staff reductions will take place at Stevenson. Konopasek said that she is actually looking for a bilingual teacher for the sixth grade.

Ginger Ostro, chief financial officer for CPS, said that 238 schools would see increased financial funding at a total of $68.5 million. However, 416 schools will see budget cuts at a total of $99.5 million.

ÒMoney follows the students,” Ostro said, adding that CPS enrollment for the upcoming school year is 372,275, which is a reduction of about one percent from last year.

Ostro said that student-based budgets would remain at $4,930 a student for grades four through eight, with $4,697 for students in kindergarten through third grade. That would come out to about $5,444 per pupil in high schools.

Local high schools that could see a reduction are Bogan, 3939 W. 79th St., and Hubbard, 6200 S. Hamlin Ave. Bogan could see a reduction in students from 951 in 2015 to 808 in 2016, a possible loss of 143 students. Hubbard could be reduced from 1,710 to 1,674, or 36 less students, according to CPS.

Kennedy High School, 6325 W. 56th St., may see more students from 1,567 in 2015 to a projected 1,613 in 2016.

Curie Metropolitan High School, 4959 S. Archer Ave., will see a projected increase from 3,093 to 3,130, or about 37 more students, according to CPS.

ÒWe’re spending the same money on students regardless of where they choose to go,” said CPS Chief Executive Officer Jesse Ruiz. He added that the district had previously protected principals at schools with lower enrollments. He said that is no longer possible under the present budget situation.

CPS is facing more than $100 million in new state cuts in funding, as well as the state dropping a $50 million pension payment, added Ruiz.

CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey says diminished school budgets will inevitably lead to layoffs.

Ruiz countered by saying these budget cuts will not hinder the classroom but schools will see a difference in funding for sports programs.

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