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Schools on the Line

Brizard talks longer day, selective enrollment, and heavier topics with kids

Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard took questions from students Thursday night on a special kids-only edition of WBEZ’s monthly call-in show Schools on the Line.

Elementary and high school students from across the city asked about the longer school day and the impact it would have on homework, after-school activities and stress. Brizard said many activities currently taking place after school will be scheduled during the 7.5 hour school day officials have planned for fall. He said Chicago should scrap its homework policy and leave the decision of how much homework to give up to individual teachers and schools. And he revealed he prefers pilates to yoga.

The schools CEO said for the first time that the city will add additional selective enrollment high schools. He told students from YouMedia and Jones College Prep that he was responding to demand from parents.

Brizard took a call from a tiny-voiced sixth grader who questioned the city’s tier-based admissions system. The policy reserves some seats for students from low-income neighborhoods.

“Even with a high qualifying score I was rejected” from a spot at Lane Tech’s Academic Center, the girl told Brizard. “And I feel it’s because I live in Tier 4….I feel unfairly treated.” Brizard reiterated one of his mantras: that the school district must create more high-quality options for students. “It pains me, honestly, to listen and to not be able to say, ‘You know? This is where you want to go? You’re gonna get a seat in that particular school,’” Brizard told her.

There were also heavier questions: one girl asked Brizard what he could do to help parents addicted to drugs. Martin, a student from the Little Village neighborhood, asked Brizard about disparities between schools near his home and north side selective enrollment schools "that have more classes and more extracurricular activities than we do.

“The way I see it, they give more funding to jails—because they have a jail in my community—instead of my schools,” Martin went on.” I feel like I’m not given the same opportunities and I’m not given the chance to succeed like they are. So I just want to know why is that possible? Why are they doing that?”

Brizard said the district is working to create good options in every neighborhood, and is thinking strategically about the location of new programs.

To hear the entire show, click on the audio above.

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