Nearly 300,000 Chicago students head back to school | WBEZ
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Nearly 300,000 Chicago students head back to school

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About 300,000 Chicago kids head back to school today.

Some are heading into completely new school buildings or programs.

In just 10 months, a shiny metal-and-glass, super-modern school has emerged from vacant industrial land on the Southwest Side.  It’s an UNO charter school, where Juan Rangel is CEO.

"Many people have described it as a spaceship that has landed. I like to think of it as a something that’s about to take off. It’s a community that’s about to take off and reach its full potential," said Rangel.

UNO is opening another charter campus in Humboldt Park. The grammar schools are among four new charters opening in the district this year. One is digital learning school, where classes and curriculum will be based on "gaming."

And there are new magnet options, including an arts program at Senn High School.

"This was a community dream for a couple of years that has now come to fruition," said Senn principal Susan Lofton. "The School of the Art Institute’s involved, theaters such as Lookingglass and Raven Theatre."

The school will start out offering intensive, hands-on study in visual arts and theater, with plans to add music and dance as the program grows. Lofton said the magnet school-within-a-school will emphasize the creation of art, but will also expose students to the business side of art.

About three dozen Chicago schools will begin transitioning this year to new, tougher standards. Illinois adopted the Common Core Standards in June 2010. Many suburban school districts have already started transitioning to the new standards, which the state describes as clearer and higher.

And just Friday, teachers at three Chicago schools voted to waive their contract rights and add 90 minutes to the day. Two of those schools start with the longer schedule this month; the third will begin in January.

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