Three charter schools get boundaries

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Despite some opposition at the Board of Education meeting today, a new
Englewood Montessori school will open its doors next year, and three
charter schools will be allowed to establish attendance boundaries for
their stu Despite some opposition at the Board of Education meeting today, a new
Englewood Montessori school will open its doors next year, and three
charter schools will be allowed to establish attendance boundaries for
their students.

Two Noble Street campuses, one on the northwest side and one on the west side, and ChicagoQuest, a newly approved near west side charter school, can now set boundaries giving priority to students that live nearby. 

Jesse Sharkey of the Chicago Teachers Union spoke against allowing charter schools to set up boundaries. He said students would be drawn away from specific neighborhood schools.

“We think these proposals may indeed negatively affect neighboring schools and students’ rights to education quality,” Sharkey said, noting that nearby CPS principals had not been informed about the proposed attendance areas.

CPS General Counsel Patrick Rocks responded that students inside a neighborhood boundary won’t be required to attend a charter school. They could just as well choose their neighborhood school.

Allowing charter schools to set attendance zones is a somewhat controversial idea. Charter schools were sold as open enrollment institutions that any student can apply to. But some charter schools want to establish boundaries to ensure that low-income and high-risk students in close proximity to the charter school have primary access to the lottery, says Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.

Also, as in the case of ChicagoQuest, some aldermen complain when new schools are opened in their community without the guarantee that it will serve neighborhood children.

The board also expanded attendance boundaries for Lorca, Monroe, Pilsen and Orozco elementary schools, citing low enrollment as the main concern.

The Montessori School of Englewood, 7033 S. Honore St., was approved Wednesday after months of negotiations with the board.  The school will serve 90 students from kindergarten through second grade starting next fall, and will eventually house 240 students up to the sixth grade level.

Rita Nolan, executive director of the Montessori Network, said that there is a waitlist of over 100 students for the nearby Montessori pilot program at Stagg Elementary in Englewood.  “The waiting lists represent the demand that the Montessori school hopes to meet,” she said.

Rosita Chatonda of the Chicago Teachers Union opposed the school, arguing that the students currently enrolled in the Stagg Montessori classes would suffer when the program leaves the building.  The Montessori School of Englewood, she said, is not within walking distance for those students.

“The school community [at Stagg] trusted these people, and for three years they housed themselves in the building and invested in the community,” Chatonda said.  “And now they’re ready to pull out.  They’re ready to go to a bigger and, quote, ‘better’ location.”

The Montessori School of Englewood is the latest in a wave of charter expansions in CPS, including last month’s approval of two new schools, four campuses for existing charters, and enrollment increases for others.