Event to examine aftermath of 2013 school closings on displaced students

By Taylor Mullaney

Two groups that explore public education in Chicago will join forces Thursday night at the University of Chicago Logan Center to discuss what happened to children displaced by the closings of 50 CPS schools in 2013.

The School Project plans to screen “Chicago Public Schools: Closed” as the second segment of its six-part documentary Web series. After the screening, the UChicago Consortium on Chicago School Research is scheduled to present its recent findings on where children affected by the closings are today. A panel discussion will follow. 

While The School Project’s first documentary installment focused on broader historical context, this segment examines only the past few years.

Rachel Dickson, the film’s supervising producer, said she hopes this portion of the project will provide an in-depth look into the personal impact of the closings.

“We’re looking at some personal stories of how a family deals with the situation, so it’s a little more intimate….We’re really trying to engage different people from different perspectives and backgrounds in talking about what the priorities of public education are in Chicago.”

Emily Krone, associate director of CCSR communications, shares Dickson’s goal of personalizing the story. She said the Consortium wants people who were impacted to see themselves in its research.

“We’re hoping it will reach people who are involved in the decision-making process, but also people who are affected by the closings….We want people to understand how families make the choices that they make, what are the barriers they face, to help inform future policy decisions.”

According to Bob Hercules, co-executive producer of The School Project, the idea originated as a thorough way to document the closings. He said that in time it developed into an interactive Web series with a “savvy” social media campaign, aiming to start a dialogue about issues beyond school closings, including charter schools, standardized testing and school discipline policies.

Hercules said he felt an obligation to examine the closings as a documentary filmmaker.

“Good or bad, it was going to have a profound impact on the city,” Hercules said, adding that “these kinds of closings are now happening across the country.”

Laura Washington will moderate the event that will feature panelists Jesse Ruiz of the Chicago Board of Education, Jitu Brown of the Journey for Justice Alliance, Asif Wilson of the Greenhouse Fellowship and former CPS teacher, and Elaine Allensworth of the CCSR.

The event will be held 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. in the performance hall at the University of Chicago Logan Center. The event is currently sold out, but there is a waitlist. The School Project’s website provides more information on the project and future events.