Reprieve for neighborhood schools leaves new schools homeless

Print More

Beidler Elementary and Tilton Elementary won’t be on the agenda of Wednesday’s board meeting. That’s good news for the parents and staff who fought plans to consolidate them with nearby schools, but not such good news for the two charter high schools that would have taken over their buildings.  Chicago Talent Development Charter and Urban Prep Academy’s East Garfield campus are now searching for the new homes they will need come September. With incoming classes coming in, they have outgrown the spaces they currently occupy. Chicago Talent Development High School is currently in an old school building; while Urban Prep occupies the second floor of Cather.

“It would be really difficult for us to return to that building next year,” said Evan Lewis, Urban Prep’s vice president of institutional advancement.
 
They aren’t the only new schools in desperate need of new space. The Chicago High School for the Arts, a contract school established under Renaissance 2010, is also without a building for next year.  Interim Schools CEO Terry Mazany says the original plan, which called for the arts high school to share a building with Lafayette Elementary School fell through and CPS is currently looking into alternatives.

Not knowing where the school will be located in the coming year causes problems for students and families trying to decide whether they will attend.

“We can give them a picture of our vision,” said Kirby Girolami Callam, the Chief Executive Officer of Union Park High Schools, Inc., which runs Chicago Talent Development.  “But we can’t show them what it’s going to look like without a facility.”

Should it change locations in the fall, Chicago Talent will occupy its third building in as many years.  Last year, when it comprised only a freshman class, the school shared space with Tilton.

“We’ve been shuffled around the last two years and we’ll be shuffled around again,” Callam said.

Chicago Public Schools will likely help the charters to find new buildings, though nothing has been worked out quite yet. 

The situation has once again prompted calls for a more comprehensive facilities plan from CPS, one that deals with both neighborhood schools and charters.

“We don’t think it’s appropriate to link closures or consolidations to charter expansions, but we recognize that they get linked in the public’s eye sometimes,” said Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools.  “This points out the real need for CPS to have a comprehensive plan, not an ad hoc plan.”

In the meantime, Broy says the district needs to make some tougher calls on the logistics of school operation, especially in cases of under-enrollment like many of the proposed consolidations.  “An obvious efficiency argument should be made that in these austere budget times we have to deal with the fact that some of these schools are no longer viable in their current enrollment,” he said.