FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Friday, August 25, 2017
For more information, contact:
CPS Office of Communications
CHICAGO – In letters today to school communities in the near south, Chicago Public Schools leadership announced the district’s intent to recommend that the Chicago Board of Education move to expand high quality neighborhood options from pre-K through high school in the near south area.
“CPS is taking an important step toward building diverse, high quality neighborhood schools that will serve your children from pre-K through high school graduation,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice K. Jackson wrote in the letters. “We did not make this decision lightly, and we believe this is in the best interest of the entire community. We also believe it was important to make a decision so that we could move forward together.”
CPS will recommend to the Board of Education that the southern boundary for South Loop Elementary School move south to 22nd Street. CPS will also recommend that National Teachers Academy begin transitioning from an elementary school to a neighborhood high school.
Pending approval, NTA would accept its first freshman class in the fall of 2019. Because of strong community input, CPS changed its initial framework so that the vast majority of existing NTA students could continue their academic careers at NTA as the high school expands. This means that for students who are rising second graders through seventh graders this year, they can continue on at NTA through high school graduation. Younger students will be transitioned to the new South Loop Elementary in fall 2019. Together, South Loop Elementary School and NTA High School will be some of the most diverse and academically excellent schools in the city – and country.
CPS also noted that building diverse school communities was an important factor in its deliberations. As they wrote in the letter: “Years ago, when South Loop Elementary School was built, boundaries were drawn that excluded and separated low-income black children from their peers. This was wrong then, and it is wrong now, and this recommendation will right a historical wrong.”
Studies show that when students of diverse backgrounds learn together, all students fare better. Inclusive classrooms yield one of the highest returns of all possible educational investments. The near south community will be home to an array of high quality neighborhood options from elementary to high school that serve students of all backgrounds.
Elected officials representing the communities also applauded the recommendation and urged the Board to approve it.
“Today’s announcement of a new elementary school building and dedicated neighborhood high school for the South Loop is a huge win for my residents. With the explosion of development in the South Loop, this investment will allow more residents to attend a high-performing CPS school while staying in their neighborhood, with their classmates, for high school,” said Alderman Dowell. “Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to make the dream of a neighborhood high school a reality. I look forward to working with a transition team made up of families from NTA, South Loop Elementary and community stakeholders to ensure that a plan is in place so all students, teachers and staff can enjoy this wonderful educational opportunity.”
“Too many students in the communities that I serve are forced to travel too far to attend a quality neighborhood high school, and it’s vital to create a strong option for them in the community,” Ald. Danny Solis said. “I’m also pleased that this plan also makes the transition to South Loop elementary gradual for the elementary students at NTA.”
“I am very excited about today’s announcement. As I’ve talked with neighbors, I am often asked about a high school option for our community. We have a growing population and there is a need for a new high school,” said Ald. Patrick D. Thompson. “I look forward to continuing to participate in conversations about how to organize this proposed new high school so that it serves all our communities well.”
“As chair of the Education Committee, we’re concerned about making sure that all students in the city get the best possible education, and this plan accomplishes many important goals simultaneously,” said Ald. Howard Brookins. “From a historical perspective, it was also critical to ensure that low-income black students have access to South Loop elementary school and a high quality high school in their neighborhood, and I’m pleased CPS has done just that.”
The next formal step will be a vote by the Board of Education, which typically happens in February. In the meantime, CPS will hold several additional community meetings to address outstanding questions, including how to best serve the needs of the students in the Regional Gifted Center.
CPS will also form a steering committee of respected community leaders to provide consistent feedback on the new high school. The district will also make a decision on the boundaries for NTA High School that will be consistent with the previously announced planning area which can be found at cps.edu/nearsouth
Chicago Public Schools serves 381,000 students in 652 schools. It is the nation’s third-largest school district.