CPS plans to open 2 new ‘classical model’ schools, add 3 new magnets

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Chicago Public Schools CEO Forrest Claypool is to announce plans to open two new “classical model” schools later Monday. | Sun-Times files

The Chicago Public Schools will open two new “classical model” schools, turn two open-enrollment neighborhood schools into citywide magnet STEM programs and add another magnet program at a neighborhood school in Pilsen.

The addition of the new schools comes as enrollment citywide continues to plummet, with some 20,000 fewer students in the country’s third largest public schools system since two years ago. And it’s not clear how much they’ll cost the cash-strapped district, which’ll ask the school board to approve its plans on Wednesday.

CPS’ CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson made the good-news announcement at Jungman Elementary in Pilsen, one of the schools that will be converted into a magnet if the school board votes for the conversions in February. Both left Jungman’s auditorium immediately after making speeches.

About $12 million was put aside in capital funding from a new capital tax but that won’t cover all the costs, CPS spokesman Michael Passman said.

But three open-enrollment neighborhood schools will use a $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to turn into magnets: Jungman and William H. Brown Elementary School, 54 N. Hermitage, both in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, and Claremont Academy Elementary School, 2300 W. 64th St. Jungman, which has CPS’ second-best Level 1 rating, will remain a neighborhood school and offer extra spots through a lottery.

All three serve predominantly low-income children, but no guarantees exist for current students or children in surrounding neighborhoods. Magnets tend to be wealthier and whiter than CPS as a whole, as do classical schools.

“This school is still for you and for your community,”Jackson said, anticipating such criticism. “When some people hear magnet and classical and some of those other programs, there’s some fear around that. We are here to support you.”

Still, parents at Jungman flocked around its principal to make sure they’d get to stay.

“The Pilsen community is changing so much,” said Xochyl Perez of Pilsen Alliance, who helped interpret. “One of the things a mom said is, ‘Everything that’s free you have to be careful of’.”

Brown and Claremont each have space for 350 more students, and Jungman 200 more, CPS says, though it won’t release space utilization data due last year.

“Having a STEM program and its magnet program at Brown school is going to help build and fill the school back up,” Ald. Walter Burnett (1st), who requested the improvement after CPS proposed an annex for nearby Skinner West. “We have a diverse ward, we try to take care of everyone, rich poor black or white.”

CPS already has five in-demand classical schools. Southwest Side Elementary will be housed in former St. Turibius School, 4120 W. 57th, and Bronzeville Classical Elementary in the old Hartigan School, 8 W. Root St. Both will open K-2 grades next September, adding a grade a year toward a full K-8 program, officials said.

Bronzeville Classical won’t have a boundary. But on the Southwest side, the admissions lottery will give unusual priority first to qualifying kids who live within two-and-a-half miles.

Chicago Teachers Union vice president Jesse Sharkey called that school “an example of how to do it right – with sustained, respectful, democratic input from all school stakeholders…At the same time, hundreds of public schools continue to confront a chronic lack of resources.”

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