Board members set to consider charter schools, plan for new South Shore High School

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Several heated issues, including new charter schools and the new high
school in South Shore, are up for resolution at Wednesday’s Board of
Education meeting, but not without some promised protests. Several heated issues, including new charter schools and the new high school in South Shore, are up for resolution at Wednesday’s Board of Education meeting, but not without some promised protests.

The Illinois Network of Charter Schools and the anti-charter Chicago Teachers Union are rallying their troops to urge board members to take their side in the debate about adding more charter schools. In December, an outpouring of charter school criticism led board members to withhold approval of 10 charter school contracts.  CPS also held two charter school community forums, which were well attended.

Only seven of the 10 charter school contracts are getting another chance at approval, and only one of them, Legal Prep Charter School, would be run by a new charter school operator.  A proposed Montessori charter school for Englewood and a charter school to be run by the social service organization Christopher House are not on the January agenda. 

Five of the contracts would allow the expansion of existing charter school networks or the addition of grades offered on existing campuses. The operators that stand to benefit are United Neighborhood Organization, with three campuses to open over two years; Erie Elementary, with the addition of a 7th and 8th grade; Noble Street , with the addition of a 7th and 8th grade at their Gary Comer campus and an increase in the enrollment capacity at other campuses; Youth Connection, to increase enrollment capacity at several locations; and Chicago International Charter School,  with an additional campus called ChicagoQuest North Campus. The December contract for Perspectives Charter School is not back on the January agenda.

The Board of Education also will take another crack at approving the transition of Kwame Nkrumah Academy in Roseland from a performance school to a charter school.

Another contentious issue on the agenda is the approval of admission standards for the new South Shore International College Prep. Parents of students at the four existing small South Shore high schools want their children to be able to attend the new building being constructed at Jeffrey Boulevard and 75th Street. But established community groups, such as the South Shore Alumni Association and the Black United Fund, want to have the school start fresh.

The latter got their wish, according to the proposal in the board packet. The new school will start with only a class of 300 freshmen next year and add a grade each year. While details are still being worked out, the school will have three tracks. One of them will be only for neighborhood children; one of them will be for those who apply and are accepted to career and technical programs; and a third will be for those selected for an International Baccalaureate program.

Finally, the board is set to approve a new magnet school with a science, technology, engineering and math focus for the city’s Near West Side. This is a move to satisfy parents in this gentrifying area who did not want their children to attend the neighborhood school because of its low performance. The magnet school will have no attendance boundaries, and students will be chosen through the normal magnet school process. A special application process for this school will be opened some time in the Spring.

Also, Senn High School on the North Side is set to get a fine arts magnet program.