Fight Over Race And Class Ends With New South Loop High School
Chicago Public Schools announced Friday it’s going forward with the controversial plan to replace an elementary school on the Near South Side with a high school.
The plan is expected to be formally approved by the Board of Education this winter.
Though attendance boundaries for the high school haven’t been established yet, CPS officials say it will likely take in students from the increasingly white South Loop, Chinatown and the mostly black area of north Bronzeville. Education chief Janice Jackson and Ald. Pat Dowell, whose third ward includes the school, have said the high school could be one of the most diverse in the city.
“The plan presented today is really the best long-term option for my constituents,” Dowell said Friday. “Over the last few years, I have been hearing about the need for a high-quality neighborhood high school and I think that the CPS plan addresses that.”
But parents of the elementary school, National Teachers Academy, have rallied against the plan. They argue it is wrong to close a relatively high-performing, mostly black and mostly low-income elementary school. They also accuse the school district of kowtowing to more affluent residents in the burgeoning South Loop.
Jackson said the plan makes several concessions to parents whose children currently attend the elementary school, National Teachers Academy, at 22 W. Cermak Road. It won’t take in freshmen until the 2019-2020 school year. Also, current second graders will be allowed to stay in the school building through their senior year of high school.
Jackson also pointed out that students from Dearborn Homes, a public housing complex just south of National Teachers Academy, will be able to attend the new high school.
Students living in nearby Chinatown also should be able to attend. For decades, residents have rejected the neighborhood high schools their students have been assigned to and have yearned for a neighborhood school close to their community.
One outstanding question is how this new high school will affect nearby high schools, several of which are suffering from low enrollment.
Sarah Karp covers education for WBEZ. You can follow her on Twitter at @WBEZeducation