CPS says it’s not shutting down deaf program, contrary to union demand
Chicago Public Schools said there were very preliminary discussions earlier this spring about possibly closing Deaf and Hard of Hearing programs at Chase Elementary School, but there are currently no plans to close. or to phase out this instruction. The comments came as the Chicago Teachers Union rallied Thursday morning to preserve those classrooms.
“Chicago Public Schools plans to close this program by phasing it out. We’re hearing very confusing and conflicting reports about this right now,” CTU President Jesse Sharkey said at a press conference outside Chase.
“Last night at 10 p.m. the union received a phone call from the Chicago Public Schools Labor Relations Officer, saying, ‘No, no, it’s not true that we’re closing the program. We simply do not accept new students into the program. This is the closing of the program.
CPS said there are 36 programs that serve deaf and hard of hearing students throughout the district, including four at Chase. Teacher Colleen McKenna said Chase’s 29 students are either in one of four dedicated classrooms or “fully integrated” into the general education classrooms at Palmer Square School.
Chase’s Deaf and Hard of Hearing programs — which cater to elementary, middle and upper grade students — began in 2015. CPS said the programs are funded by its central office.
The claim that Chase’s deaf and hard of hearing programming was under threat was raised at last month’s Chicago Board of Education meeting. CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said he would look into the matter and return to the board.
A CPS representative said in a statement that officials from the Office of Support and Diverse Learner Services contacted Chase Elementary School on May 25, the day of the board meeting, and “assured the administration of the school that the (deaf and hard of hearing) program is not in danger of closing.This message has been reiterated in recent days.
CTU said it initially heard the lineup was on the chopping block due to student transportation difficulties and needs elsewhere in the city. CPS experienced transportation issues for most of the school year due to a nationwide shortage of bus drivers.
In its statement, the CPS said, “The district has not closed and does not plan to close any (deaf and hard of hearing) programs. CPS is investing an additional $68 million in funding to advance equity and meet the needs of the district’s diverse learners in the proposed budget for fiscal year 2023. This includes an additional $62 million for teacher positions and paraprofessionals and an additional $6 million for additional case manager positions.
CTU said in a statement Thursday that registration at Chase for new deaf and hard of hearing students was closed this spring and has not reopened. CPS said in a statement that its Office of Various Learner Services and Supports manually enrolls students in these programs across the district. A CPS spokesperson could not immediately say Thursday how many new deaf and hard of hearing students have signed up with Chase for the upcoming school year.
Parent Tanisha Ward said if any cuts were to happen it would be heartbreaking.
“This school, this staff has developed our children in more than one way,” Ward said. “My son came from a mainstream school that didn’t support his hearing loss, so he fell way behind. He came (to) Chase, and they upgraded him.