North Side school supporters campaign in streets against proposed Noble move

SHARE North Side school supporters campaign in streets against proposed Noble move
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Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) speaks about Noble Academy during a Chicago Board of Education meeting sat month. File Photo. | Ashlee Rezin/for Sun-Times Media

Having won a respite from the approval of a new Noble charter high school’s move to Uptown, parents from area neighborhood schools are aggressively trying to quash the move outright, handing out postcards this week and gathering signatures against it.

“Neighborhood elementary schools are thriving! Let’s support neighborhood high schools,” read the fliers now circulating around 640 W. Irving Park. “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.”

The Noble Academy has proposed moving into that empty private school building in Uptown, saying the school has outgrown its tiny space downtown where its lease is about to end, and has found a rare suitable space.

Noble’s director of governmental affairs, Matt McCabe said the charter network remains “hopeful that the board will vote in June on a permanent location for The Noble Academy.Tomorrowis the last day of school for our kids and so parents, students and teachers are, understandably, anxiously awaiting a decision.

“Obviously, our primary concern is that our students and teachers have a workable building to walk into this fall and we are working relentlessly toward that right now,” he said.

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th) said the campaign to block another Noble charter involves North Side Aldermen Pat O’Connor (40th), Tom Tunney (44th), James Cappleman (46th) and Harry Osterman (48th).

But the effort is being driven by parents and community members who want a “cohesive K-through-12” system in the Chicago Public Schools. That means no more charters that siphon students and drain sorely-needed tax dollars from a public school system “on the verge of financial collapse,” Pawar said.

“That school coming in here cuts into everything we’re doing to give families what they seek in the suburbs. Parents aren’t leaving the city in search of charter schools. They’re leaving for stable K-through-12 neighborhood systems in the suburbs. They’re not just trying to get away from a system in constant financial crisis. They’re trying to escape our absurd selective-enrollment process,” Pawar said.

“It requires children to essentially be perfect — not only in the classroom, but to be perfect test-takers. We need to fundamentally re-evaluate selective enrollment and school choice. Selective enrollment is the elder cousin of school choice. Both systems rely heavily on creaming [the best] students and ginning the numbers. In the suburbs, you pay one tax bill and everyone goes to the same school and everyone has access to great schools.”

Principals of North Side high schools, parents from those schools and the elementary schools that feed into them and a slew of elected officials including members of Congress have lobbied CPS to halt the move. The Board of Education tabled its planned vote a few weeks ago, saying they wanted to learn more about the situation.

Noble announced over the weekend that it was no longer seeking a home in Rogers Park or elsewhere on the North Side for a brand new school. The soonest the board could take up the vote again is June 24, though CPS won’t say if the vote has been rescheduled.

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