November 1, 2012 – Chicago Public Schools (A2 / 167505PM2) officials said Wednesday that half of the district’s schools are underutilized with nearly 140 more than half-empty, and that those numbers will play a key role in deciding what schools to close or consolidate. “We’ve got too many buildings and too few children,” district CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said during a conference call with reporters to discuss a draft of guidelines for school closings and related actions. Sources have said up to 120 schools could be closed, but Byrd-Bennett said no hard number exists and the plan is still being determined. She acknowledged that convincing community residents to accept any school closures will be a tough go, largely because of the low regard so many have for CPS. “This district has no credibility in the community,” said Byrd-Bennett, who took the top post just over two weeks ago following the departure Jean-Claude Brizard. Byrd-Bennett also denied a link between school closings and the growth of privately run, publicly funded charter schools — but again admitted convincing a skeptical community isn’t easy. “They do believe there’s a secret plan in the bottom desk drawer,” she said. Under the guidelines, Byrd-Bennett can only recommend a school be closed or consolidated if students from that school have an option to enroll in a better-performing school.