Near South Side High School is what our families, students have been waiting for
We are ready to move forward for the betterment of our collective communities. Let’s do right for all of our children who call the Near South Side home.
For decades, our communities have called for a new high school on the Near South Side. From the South Loop to Armour Square, families have asked community leaders for an open enrollment high school available to all surrounding neighborhood students who wish to attend.
In June, Chicago Public Schools offered a clear plan to make this type of high school a reality. The CPS capital budget allocated $70 million for its development, with an additional $50 million in funding from the state.
Since it was proposed this summer, hundreds of participants — including parents, educators, representatives from community groups and local school councils have provided input on the plan and have expressed both their support and their concerns about the project. All of this feedback has been instrumental in our discussions with CPS and community leaders around the school’s viability.
Despite a strong and growing elementary school population in the area, students across the Near South Side lack an open enrollment high school option and are forced to travel well outside of their neighborhoods to attend school. This has a significant impact on the well-being of families in these communities — which include Armour Square, Bridgeport, Chinatown, Douglas and South Loop — as they travel sometimes more than an hour to attend parent-teacher conferences, sporting events, and performances at their kids’ schools.
This distance also creates barriers for students who must choose between getting home at a decent hour or participating in after-school activities. Imagine what students could do with their time if they were to get several hours a week back that otherwise would be spent on transportation to and from schools outside their communities.
This geographical chasm can also inhibit parents and families from being involved in their children’s educational experience. It becomes a lot more difficult to volunteer or attend activities at school when you have to travel significant distances to do so. Family and community involvement in school is linked to more positive outcomes for students, and the families on the Near South Side deserve the opportunity to participate in full.
Serious questions raised
While the need is clear, we know that discussion around this historic opportunity also elicited a set of questions among community members. For some, the proposed location at 24th and State raised questions about the Chicago Housing Authority’s commitments to public and affordable housing in connection with the site. These remain intact. And, as alderpersons serving these communities, we are prepared to hold CHA accountable to ensure they come through on those commitments in full.
It is also important to underline that the funding allocated for this new endeavor on behalf of CPS and the State of Illinois does not take away operating dollars from other schools. We are also committed to ensuring that other schools in surrounding communities — schools like Kelly and Dunbar — continue to receive the investments they need to thrive.
We are ready to move forward for the betterment of our collective communities. Let’s do right for all of our children who call the Near South Side home and create a high school they can call their own. This ‘ownership’ by the students and community will require thoughtful and meaningful engagement with the community on the design of the school and we will work to ensure they are involved throughout the process.
The Near South Side High School is an investment that will enrich the lives of our communities’ students and families for generations to come. As long-time proponents of the school, we are committed to not only move this forward, but to ensure that CPS delivers on its promises to the communities who will be served by this school.
We support recommendations made by CPS staff and encourage the CPS Board of Education to approve its development.
Ald. Pat Dowell represents the 3rd Ward. Ald. Nicole Lee represents the 11th Ward.
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