Barbara Byrd Bennett school closings

Nancy Stone/Chicago Tribune

Barbara Byrd-Bennett

One of the things I like most about being in Chicago, as a journalist, reader, and nerd, is the remarkable and growing open-data community, one of the strongest in the country. Ultimately it stems from the local government, which has made great strides, including a runner's-up award in the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayors Challenge for its smart data platform.

But there's also a vibrant community of hackers and researchers turning that data into valuable tools—none more so than, which is vital as Chicago rolls out the largest number of school closings in U.S. history, the Sun-Times reports, which is expected tomorrow.

Take, for instance, two schools reported to be on the final list, Mahalia Jackson Elementary and Garrett A. Morgan Elementary, two schools within a half-mile of each other in Auburn-Gresham. The dashboard at SchoolCuts gives a full rundown of the schools' information: enrollment trends (Morgan has declined by more than half in the past decade, Jackson by not quite as much), school performance (Morgan has improved, Jackson has improved slightly), utilization, and more, as well as the data for neighboring schools.

Another to take a look at is the Chicago Public Schools Utilization map by Josh Kalov and Derek Eder, which compares the CPS formula (30 students per class as an ideal midpoint) with the Apples 2 Apples 30-student-maximum formula. Apples 2 Apples has done some really interesting analysis generally, like "Where did these 100,000 empty seats come from?" and a visualization of the CPS formula. (Kalov and Apples 2 Apples worked on SchoolCuts, along with the Open Data Institute, which overlaps with the excellent Open City Apps.)

School closings aren't all about data—they're about the relationships between teachers, students, and parents. But it's data-driven, and these sites allow you to view the process from that angle.

Update: also good, WBEZ's map of 10 years of school closures (if 50 are indeed closed, that would be half the total of the previous decade; updatd with new link), Elliott Ramos's maps of schools facing closure vis-a-vis abandoned property and vacant lots, and the Tribune's map of underutilized schools and population change.