National Teachers Academy to close, CPS says

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Parents and supporters of National Teachers Academy Elementary School protest outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Ravenswood neighborhood home to decry a proposal to turn the South Loop school into a high school, last year. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

An outcry from parents — and the highest possible academic rating— could not save the National Teachers Academy from being closed in favor of a new neighborhood high school serving parts of the South Loop, Bronzeville, Bridgeport and Chinatown.

The Chicago Public Schools made that clear Friday, finalizing school closing and consolidation decisions previously on the drawing board and at least one new action.

Under the plan, the elementary school would be phased out over several years.

In October, protesters gathered outside Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s house, voicing their opposition to the plan to close the school, located at 55 W. Cermak Road. Protesters have said the decision to convert NTA is “the definition of neocolonialism.”

Under the proposal released Friday, Roosevelt High School, which currently serves students from 7th-through-12th grades, will phase out those middle school students from Haugan and Henry Elementary Schools over the next two school years.

That marks a reversal for CPS, which put middle school students into Roosevelt just a few years ago in an apparent attempt to prop up the struggling and half-empty high school.

CPS announced in June that Chicago’s rebounding Englewood community will get a new, $75 million high school, but pay the price for it by closing four under-enrolled high schools: Harper, Hope, Robeson and TEAM Englewood.

Friday’s news dump also raises the price tag for the new Englewood high school — to $85 million— and makes it clear that none of students currently attending the four, soon-to-be-shuttered high schools will have the benefit of attending the new high school.

Instead, the new Englewood high school will open to freshman in the fall of 2019 and add another class of freshman in each of the following three years, ultimately serving 1,200 students.

On Thursday, the Chicago Teachers Union got wind of Friday’s announcement and called an “emergency” news conference to denounce a move, the union claimed, would “destabilize” Englewood.

“This is one more maneuver in the effort by Mayor Emanuel and his cronies to push out black working class families in Englewood and across our South and West Side neighborhoods,” CTU Vice-President Jesse Sharkey was quoted as saying in a press release. “We need and we demand investment in sustainable community schools, instead of disinvestment, neglect and dismantlement of treasured community anchors like these schools on Rahm’s hit list.”

Sharkey argued that the decision to open the new Englewood high school to successive classes of freshmen means that the new high school will not be the “vibrant new option” that parents were promised.

“Emanuel and his handpicked school bureaucrats sold this proposed new Englewood high school on the basis of a lie,” Sharkey said.

CPS has also set aside $14 million to “transition students and school communities” to all of the consolidations, including $8.3 million for the students moving out of the four Englewood high schools.

All of CPS proposals would have to be approved by a vote of the Chicago Board of Education, which could come as early at February 2018.

Contributing: Stefano Esposito

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