William H. Ray Elementary School serves preschool to sixth grade. Located at 5631 S. Kimbark, with a 120 year history of serving as a school for the Hyde Park community, Ray is proud of its commitment to racial, ethnic, and economic diversity. The student body is 48 percent black, 21 percent white, 13 percent Asian, 9 percent Latino, and 8 percent multi-racial. Forty-five percent of Ray’s population is low income, and the 12 percent of the students are special needs. Eighty-four percent of students meet or are above state standards.
The school is a stable, neighborhood school where multiple generations of families are still sending their children. Many of the school’s teachers and past principals live or have lived in the community. Ray also serves the children of many graduate students from the University of Chicago and benefits from university tutors and programs. Ray is also a World Language Academy where students learn Spanish or Latin or both. The school has a vibrant chess club, a sewing club, a Lego robotics club, and seasonal sports teams. It has many fee-based after school programs as well. Ray is also part of the Options for Knowledge program, and the school usually has a lottery waitlist of several hundred kids who would love to go to Ray.
Under the CPS plan, Ray will become a receiving school for Canter Leadership Academy, a neighborhood middle school. This means they will need to add both 7th and 8th grade classrooms. It is unclear how many students will be coming to Ray from Canter, since some students will be going to Bret Harte, another receiving school. Ray will also need to house current Ray students who will be 7th graders in the fall. Further, another neighborhood school, Beulah Shoesmith, currently only goes to 6th grade, and no plan is yet in place for Shoesmith students who typically go to Canter after 6th grade.
Currently, class size at Ray ranges from a low of 25 students in third grade to 39 students in the fourth grade. The current 6th grade class has 35 students. It is unclear where the new classrooms would be, and there is concern that the classrooms for children with special needs may be consolidated.
Ray’s enrollment is at 653 and according to CPS the building should hold 870 students.
“We actually do not have any empty classrooms in our building currently. So I personally think if Ray were to try to absorb more students it would involve a big trade off,” —Joy Clendenning, Ray parent and LSC member
In addition to the worries about overcrowding, Ray is also in the midst of an unexpected leadership change. In April there was an administrative shake-up at the school. Both the principal and the assistant principal were “temporarily reassigned” with no reasons given by CPS administrators other than, “[T]his is the right time to have new leadership at Ray.” Although principal firing and hiring decisions are within the power of a school’s Local School Council, Ray’s LSC may not get a say in the principal’s permanent replacement until the expiration of the previous principal’s contract in 2015 because the former principal officially neither resigned nor was fired. An interim principal, Toni Hill, was appointed on April 15th.
Post authors: Hannah Hayes and Cassie Creswell