Noble Academy, under pressure, abandons plan to move charter school into Uptown

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The Noble Academy, bowing to pressure from the public as well as elected officials, has given up on moving to an old private school building in Uptown and instead will find a temporary location for the next school year in West Town.

Noble official Matt McCabe said Thursday that the school gave up on 640 W. Irving Park for The Noble Academy, which has spent the last year in a small space at 17 S. Dearborn, and instead will share space next year with Chicago International Charter School’s ChicagoQuest campus. The CICS school currently serves sixth- to 10th grades and is willing to provide a home for the upcoming school year to Noble, whose downtown lease is about to end, McCabe said.

The temporary move is “not ideal for parents,” McCabe said, but it ensures that the new school can continue and its students have a place to go in the fall.

The closest high schools are Lincoln Park, the selective Walter Payton, and Noble’s original campus in West Town.

The proposed location still needs approval by the Board of Education, which tabled the original Uptown plan in May after the public protested, saying it needed time to gather more information. A public hearing will be held at CPS headquarters at 6:30 p.m. on June 18 at 6:30 p.m.

“After hearing from the community, the Board of Education and Noble Academy determined that it is in the best interest to identify an alternate site from the originally proposed site on Irving Park Road,” District spokesman Bill McCaffrey said.

Jeff Jenkins, whose two children attend the feeder Coonley Elementary School, testified before the board of education in May against the Noble move, and spent the past few days handing out fliers.

The fliers read: “Neighborhood elementary schools are thriving! Let’s support neighborhood high schools. . . . Opening new schools at this time will add hundreds of seats without justifiable need or demand, divert million of dollars from North Side neighborhoods, add to the $1 billion CPS deficit — a fiscally irresponsible move.”

Jenkins credited the outcry with Noble’s change of heart, saying “It was a pretty strong, pretty loud coalition of folks. You’re talking parents, teachers and principals, alderpeople and politicos. It was a pretty wide swath of folks up here. You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who was chanting for the Noble cause in this part of the city. So many great things are happening here in our elementary schools up here.”

Uptown Ald. James Cappleman (46th) also was relieved to learn that Noble will not be coming to his North Side ward.

Cappleman is one of a coalition of North Side alderman who’ve generally banded together in support of their neighborhood high schools — the group includes Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), Pat O’Connor (40th), Tom Tunney (44th) and Harry Osterman (48th).

They’ve joined parents and community members who want a cohesive K to 12th grade system in the city’s public schools. They’ve focused in particular on Amundsen, Senn, Lake View and Sullivan high schools, whose enrollments, they argued, would have suffered if Noble moved in.

“Our surrounding schools are under-enrolled. One of them is at 37 percent capacity. They couldn’t withstand having another school. It ends up sucking the resources away from neighborhood schools into a charter school,” Cappleman said.

“There can be an argument for charters in neighborhoods where there’s overcrowding,” he said. “But that’s not the case in this neighborhood.”

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