Charter school tied to megachurch, Common no longer wants to share Hirsch HS

SHARE Charter school tied to megachurch, Common no longer wants to share Hirsch HS
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Common poses for a portrait at the 90th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon at The Beverly Hilton hotel on Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. | Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

A new charter high school backed by the rapper Common and a politically-connected megachurch no longer wants to set up in Hirsch High School.

Art in Motion charter school had wanted to share space with Hirsch, 7740 S. Ingleside, which has just 138 students enrolled in a building intended for more than 1,000, and sought approval from Chicago’s Board of Education as soon as next week. But on Friday those affiliated with the charter said the work needed to do so is too expensive.

“Through the Illinois State Code’s required action process for AIM’s co-location with Emil G. Hirsch Metropolitan High School, we determined that the financial investment required of AIM is not feasible. Therefore, we have made the decision to pursue another facility in the community to serve as the home to AIM starting this fall,” said Karen Ratliff, a member of the school’s board.

AIM has the financial backing of the Grammy-award winner, Common, and the New Life Covenant Southeast church, led by Pastor John F. Hannah, an ally of Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Common’s mother, Mahalia Hines, is a school board member who recused herself from voting on the school.

AIM officials wouldn’t they say how much financial investment was required nor say where else they are looking to be ready to open to students in September.

But in its application to CPS, AIM said it could also set up in New Life’s brand new $26 million facility being constructed, an arrangement that ‘d be rent-free for at least the first few years — and indicated Friday that the church remains under consideration.

CPS spokesman Michael Passman said that Hirsch’s building needed $5 million in improvements tied to the Americans with Disabilities Act required before a new occupant could move in.

Hirsch students and supporters had protested the space-sharing plan, saying it would surely lead to the closure of the school housed in an old building in the Grand Crossing neighborhood.

Hirsch parent Jamaica Miller urged officials to steer some of the money available to open the new charter back into Hirsch so it could attract more of the district’s dwindling student population.

“It’s historical, but it does need some upkeep and the kids do need air conditioners in the room,” said Miller, mom of a freshman and senior.

The change marked the second good news this week for students in targeted neighborhood high schools. On Monday, CPS decided against closing all four high schools in Englewood in June, agreeing to gradually phase out three of them.


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