Chicago school board to consider charter relocations, renewals | WBEZ
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Chicago school board to consider charter relocations, renewals

The Chicago Board of Education is expected to vote Wednesday on proposals that would expand enrollment at several charter schools and move some into different buildings.

In one case, Rowe Elementary would move into the old Peabody elementary school, a building shuttered during the 2013 mass closings. The district no longer owns the Peabody building. If it approves the move, the district would have to provide the public charter school with extra money to cover rent and maintenance costs at Peabody.

“(Chicago Public Schools) promised to not only the aldermen, the state legislature, and the public, that they would not allow charter schools into closed school buildings,” said Martin Ritter, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union. “CPS has a serious problem with its credibility.”

Ritter and hundreds of others showed up to a public hearing last week at CPS headquarters. However, the move of Rowe to Peabody was not the most hotly contested.

Principals, parents, and several elected officials spoke against a proposal to move The Noble Academy to 640 W. Irving Park Rd. Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said that move would “suck the lifeblood” out of the area’s existing neighborhood high schools. If the move is approved, The Noble Academy would add an eighth public high school to the North Side neighborhoods of Edgewater, Uptown, Lakeview, Andersonville and Rogers Park.

“Our schools have a capacity of about 7,400,” said Senn High School Principal Susan Lofton, referring to Senn, and nearby Sullivan, Lakeview, Uplift and Amundsen high schools.

Eleven elected officials signed a letter in opposition to the move. Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), whose ward includes Amundsen and Lakeview, was one of them.

“When you add a charter school to that mix and you have per pupil funding where dollars follow students, you once again add a market for additional seats where one didn’t exist,” Pawar said at the hearing.

The school district is currently facing a $1.1 billion deficit.

Matt McCabe, director of government affairs for the Noble Street Charter School network, said he doesn’t think the school would impact enrollment at nearby schools.

“We don’t see it as any sort of detriment to the other schools in the area,” McCabe said. “Because facilities are such a challenge generally, you look high and low and wide and far to try to find the best option for kids. This is what came out as the best option.”

The Noble Academy, like other charter schools, enrolls students from across the city, “from 106 elementary schools and 45 different zip codes,” McCabe said. Currently, the school is using temporary space next door to Noble’s downtown campus, Muchin College Prep, but school officials said they need a “permanent home.”

In addition to the proposals to move Noble and Rowe, the Board is also expected to vote on the following:

  • Delaying the opening of three more alternative schools run by for-profit companies: Ombudsman, Pathways, and Magic Johnson Bridgescape. The Board will also consider providing an additional $2.2 million in start-up funding to these three operators in spite of the delays.

  • Closing Catalyst-Howland Charter School. According to the board report, Catalyst officials voluntarily proposed the closure of that campus. It was previously placed on academic warning.

  • Rescinding a previous approval to allow UNO Charter School Network to open two more schools.

  • Rescinding a previous approval to allow Concept Schools to open another Horizon Science Academy on the South Side. CPS halted plans to open the school last fall amid a federal probe into Concept’s operations.

  • Extending six school turnaround contracts (at Dulles, Curtis, Deneen, Bradwell, Johnson, and Phillips) with the Academy for Urban School Leadership through 2018.

  • Five-year charter contract renewals with the Academy for Global Citizenship, Erie, Urban Prep – Bronzeville, Rowe, Legacy, and Youth Connections Charter Schools.

  • Three-year charter contract renewals with EPIC Academy, Galapagos, Instituto Health Sciences Academy, Urban Prep – Englewood, Urban Prep – West, and Chicago Tech Academy.

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