Deaf program at Logan Square Elementary School will not close, says CPS – but parents and students still have concerns

LOGAN SQUARE — The Chicago Teachers’ Union has backed an ongoing campaign to save Chase Elementary’s beloved deaf and hard of hearing program from closing — but district officials say CPS has ‘no plan’ to delete the program.

Chase Elementary at 2021 N. Point St. has been a hub for deaf and hard of hearing students for seven years. Logan Square School offers one of the largest deaf and hard of hearing programs in the district, with 29 students.

The program, which is for students whose hearing loss has a significant impact on their ability to learn, is woven into the fabric of Chase, teachers and parents said. A wall mosaic in sign language welcomes pupils and parents every day.

“We’re accepted here, we’re embraced here, and hearing students are actually interacting with our children,” said Nancy Beaucaire, a teacher who piloted the deaf and hard of hearing program at Chase. “I’ve been to schools where that doesn’t happen. Kids ask our students for play dates. This has never happened in my almost 30 years of teaching. Never.”

But after what parents and teachers have described as years of success, CPS officials floated the idea this spring to “phase out” Chase’s deaf and hard of hearing program. According to the district’s plan, the program would stop accepting new students in the fall, parents and teachers said.

CPS officials initially blamed “transportation problems”. CPS and other school districts across the country are struggling to operate buses due to a nationwide driver shortage.

Officials then said the program was needed in another part of town, CTU leaders said. CPS runs 36 deaf and hard of hearing programs across the city, according to the district.

A CPS spokeswoman did not say why the district was considering closing the program.

Credit: Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago
Fourth-grader Chase Biviana at a press conference outside the school Thursday.

Chase teachers, parents and students were devastated by the news. Deaf students are often sent to different schools, which puts a strain on their families and the student themselves. Seven years ago, CPS transferred the deaf and hard of hearing program to Chase from another public school.

“Most of our children have had a very difficult time with hospitals, cardiologists, therapists, and now the CPS is doing this to us again? It is not fair. It’s really not fair,” said mother Elba Davina.

Parent Sergio Hernandez said his 8-year-old daughter, Biviana, was “so excited” when she signed up for Chase and saw other kids wearing hearing aids in the cafeteria. Biviana grew tremendously during her time at Chase, despite her medical issues, Hernandez said.

“She was at another school before she came to Chase, and we felt she didn’t speak the way she should at her age,” he said. “But once she got here, she started to excel. I don’t want this to sound bad, but now she can’t stop talking…because of Chase, his team, his teachers.

Hernandez and Davina were part of a group of parents, teachers, union members and local elected officials who staged a protest outside the Logan Square school on Thursday morning, urging the CPS to keep the deaf program and hard of hearing.

Deaf students would suffer greatly if they transferred out of Chase, or if school was no longer an option for them, teachers and parents said.

Teacher Colleen Harrah McKenna, who piloted the program with Beaucaire, said students felt discouraged upon hearing the news.

“Students came to me yesterday with confusion and with questions. A student asked, “What if I take out my hearing aids?” They’ll never know, and then I can stay at Chase,” McKenna said, fighting back tears. “Another cried and asked, ‘Why are we hated for being deaf? Why are we hated for having cochlear implants? »

But the CPS said students and families have nothing to worry about because the deaf and hard of hearing program will remain at Chase.

While CPS had “very preliminary discussions” about closing the program in the spring, the district changed course and district officials confirmed in writing May 25 that no changes would be made, officials said. of the district in a written statement Thursday.

In the statement, CPS said it is “investing an additional $68 million in proposed budget funding for fiscal year 2023 to advance equity and meet the needs of diverse learners in the district. This includes $62 million more for teaching and paraprofessional positions and $6 million more for additional case manager positions.

The union, however, still has concerns. CTU spokeswoman Chris Geovanis said expectant parents cannot register online for the upcoming school year.

“They talk out of both sides of their mouths,” Geovanis said. “You don’t keep the program open and thriving if you close it to new students. In fact, you are throttling it slower,”

A CPS spokesperson said the district’s Office of Diverse Learners and Supports and Services is helping parents register manually. Enrollment in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Program is a “multi-step process” that includes a meeting with the district’s Individualized Education Programs (IEP) team, the spokesperson said.

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Michael A. May