Responding to stiff opposition against converting a thriving elementary school in the South Loop, Chicago Public Schools now proposes to let current school students finish grade school there before gradually converting it to a high school.
District officials presented the updates at the third of three feisty public forums about National Teachers Academy, which CPS wants to turn into a neighborhood high school when it completes a new annex for the crowded South Loop Elementary school.
All students who are starting second grade or higher at NTA, a Level 1 rated school, in September can stay through the end of eighth grade or transfer to South Loop whose brand new annex is supposed to open in the middle of the 2018-19 school year. High school grades will open in the NTA building at State and Cermak starting in September 2019, according to CPS’ proposal.
“This means minimal change for current NTA families,” it read.
However, CPS still won’t reveal any boundaries to attend its proposed high school.
NTA families continue to protest the recently publicized closure, saying that their school, which holds the district’s second-highest rating while serving mostly low-income African-American children, shouldn’t be shut down to accommodate wealthier families moving into the booming South Loop.
Local School Council chair Elisabeth Greer said although NTA families just found out about CPS plans in the spring, district and public officials had been discussing turning the building into a high school for at least five years, without involving her school community. She said the meetings and subsequent adjustments are “a weak attempt on CPS’ part to claim that they are being ‘transparent,’ when in fact, powerful political forces have been plotting this behind the scenes for years.”
“All of their revisions have been in response to our objections; whereas, if we at NTA had been brought to the table during the initial discussion of turning NTA into a high school, the conversation would have been more fruitful,” Greer said.
But Janice Jackson, CPS’ chief education officer, said she is considering the merger of NTA into South Loop, where white student enrollment is more than double the district’s average, to diversify both schools. She also has said no final decisions have been made.
And the Chinatown community has been lobbying for a high school on the Near South Side for decades, saying Chinese-American students have to travel to attend good schools. Community leaders also say they don’t want to profit at anyone else’s expense.