Buckingham Special Education Center is one of the three therapeutic day schools for severely emotionally disturbed children in CPS, two of which are slated for closure. Currently, 37 students attend. 97% are African American, the remainder Latino. 94.6% are low income. Although female students are accepted, all current students are male. They offer first through eighth grades, but have no first graders enrolled this year.
Most of the children come from the South Side of the city. It is the sole therapeutic day school of this type on the South Side of Chicago. If Buckingham is closed, families may choose to send their children to Montefiore, 1310 S. Ashland, more than 16 miles away. A Buckingham staff member expressed concern about these fragile and explosive children being able to tolerate the long bus ride, even with an aide on the bus.
Otherwise, CPS will pay for the children to attend private therapeutic schools. There are three on the south side of Chicago: Beacon Therapeutic School (10650 S. Longwood Drive), Banner (9538 S. Harvard Avenue) and South Central (7550 S. Phillips Avenue). Because the only public alternative is such a long distance away, CPS is, in effect if not officially, privatizing this public school.
Both staff and families are very concerned about mixing these children with those from Montefiore and Near North, which is also being closed and the students relocated to Montefiore, next fall in a new school and a new location. He notes that the kids are settled in at Buckingham, they know the staff and the building, which is small. “For these children, change is very, very difficult.”
“He’s more acclimated there than he’s been anywhere. Those kids are going to have to start all over.” —Nikkitoya Roberts, Buckingham parent
Buckingham has only a single unused classroom. They are seven kids away from being “properly utilized”, but the school itself has no control over referring students to their program. Students are assigned to this school through the Office of Diverse Educational Needs. The staff member observed that no new students have been referred to Buckingham since December. They have been provided with no explanation as to why the school will be closed.
As it is unclear how many families will choose to send their children to Montefiore, it is unclear how many staff will be transferred to Montefiore and how many will lose their jobs.
CPS has had a private consulting company in the school to discuss the transition with the children. Staff have wondered why they aren’t the ones to help their students deal with the transition and have noticed issues with these people, whom the children don’t know, meeting with them.
“I have an 11-year-old son that has been attending this school for three years.[…]Let me tell you about my son first. This baby came to me as a blessing. He’s adopted, okay, number one? Number two, he already lost one home. And you’re asking him to leave another one.[…]Number three, ADHD, fetal alcohol syndrome, bipolar.[…]What are you going to do for my child? I don’t want to hear about numbers. He’s already been disserved. He’s already been thrown away. He’s already been done that. What else are you going to do to him and the kids that are just like him?” —Diana Garcia, Buckingham parent
Post author: Leah Harp