My Twitter DM’s and email have been blowing up since CPS released the new School Utilization data last Friday.

Many people across the District were understandably confused (and alarmed) by the changes in the number of classrooms that CPS has attributed to their school since the last round of school closings. Getting the data correct is important. Back in 2012, the data on school capacity and the formula created by the District drove the decision to close almost 50 schools, affecting tens of thousands of people in Chicago (if not more).

The last time we looked at this data five years ago, it was very difficult to confirm the specific classroom counts that CPS was attributing to each school. There was no publicly available uniform list of:

  • how many classrooms were being used in each school
  • how the classrooms were being used
  • the square footage of the classrooms
  • the location of the classrooms in the building (for example, basement? Annex?)
  • the physical condition and safety of the classrooms (are they able to safely be used?)

Josh and I were able to track down the  floor plans of many schools that were buried in old reports on Asbestos Abatement in schools, however, it was difficult to know how current those floor plans were; square footage per room was not easy to determine; and much of the other information was not available in the document.


This time around, we have better data. And this may, in fact, account for some of the changes in capacity data for each school.

In November 2015, CPS released reports in the Downloads section of School pages called the “Facility Assessment Detail Report.” (You can scroll down to see an example in the Downloads/Building section for Amundsen High School.)

This report contains room audits of all CPS schools that contains a lot of the detail we didn’t have available to the public back in 2012.

I’m going to pull out two school examples from parent questions I received over the weekend…Hamilton and Burley.

In 2012-2013, Hamilton Elementary was listed as having:

  • 22 total classrooms
  • 16 homerooms and 6 ancillary rooms
  • Ideal Enrollment = 480
  • 2012-2013 20th Day Enrollment = 371
  • Space Use Status = 77%
  • Considered Underutilized

In 2017-2018, Hamilton Elementary (not having moved buildings or undergone any significant physical changes to its facility) is listed as having:

  • 24 total classrooms
  • Ideal Enrollment = 540 (an increase of 60 students since 2012)
  • 2017-2018 20th Day Enrollment = 480
  • Space Use Status = 89%
  • Considered Efficient

This is a significant increase in capacity (60 students!) in the wake of no significant building changes such as an addition.

If we look at the Facility Assessment Detail Report for Hamilton, we get a more detailed picture of the school to try and determine how CPS may be changing how they are counting rooms in a building.


CPS is still not counting rooms below grade (and that is appropriate)…that schools are forced to find space to operate in (potentially) windowless basements is unacceptable. (Yet, here we are.)

So, why the difference? It’s possible in 2012-2013 that:

  • CPS got the numbers wrong. Which is alarming if true, as they were making serious and irreversible District-wide decisions based on the data.
  • That certain types of rooms weren’t counted in 2012-2013 for some reason (?)
  • Were libraries not counted in 2012-2013?
  • Were any of these rooms being used in a way in 2012-2013 that excluded them from the count back then?
  • Other possibilities?

In any case, it would seem that the updated numbers for Hamilton are “correct” according to the new Utilization Guidelines. Is this true for the rest of the discrepancies that we are seeing?

Part 2…let’s look at another school.

2 thoughts on “Official School Capacity changed in many schools since 2012…why? (Part 1)

  1. Pingback: CPS Space Utilization Data changing? Part 2 | Apples 2 Apples in Chicago Public Schools

  2. Pingback: Space Utilization… then (2015) and now (2018) | Apples 2 Apples in Chicago Public Schools

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