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CPS families one step closer to simpler high school applications

Chicago Board of Education logo

Chicago Board of Education logo. | File photo

The Board of Education just made it a little bit easier to apply to high school in Chicago, approving an application with a single deadline for all district-run schools.

But the long-awaited dream of one single application for every secondary school in the city won’t be a reality for at least a few more years because charter schools aren’t yet part of the common application now known as GoCPS.

“GoCPS really seeks that all students have access, and all students are set up for success and the ability to navigate this system,” Chief Education Officer Janice Jackson told the five board members present, who all voted to approve the changes. “Currently we have more than 100 applications to high schools and programs with various deadlines in the district. It is very complicated and hard to navigate this system. There’s definitely an equity issue there.”

She said too many students who qualify for competitive academic programs aren’t applying to them because the system is complicated and intimidating for children whose parents don’t understand how to work it, or who are at elementary schools that don’t focus on high school admissions.

Starting this fall with kids currently in seventh grade, students will rank the selective enrollment schools and any other programs that interest them on an online application with a single deadline. Community organizations are said to have been enlisted to help, but no names have been released so far.

Neither were the names of charter schools that have committed to participating so far. And that’s the kicker — so far the application is for “all district managed schools and participating charter school programs,” Jackson said. Charters that don’t commit in time for the fall will be cajoled and eventually strong-armed into participating, but that’ll take time, she said.

For example, some of the Noble Network of Charter School’s campuses will participate right away but others will not.

“We’re in continuing discussions with CPS about their vision for this program and are still working out the details of our participation,” spokesman Cody Rogers said. “Since launching our own universal enrollment form last year, we’ve seen the benefits to students and families that such a platform can bring.”

CPS has so far budgeted $250,000 on the software to be used for the application, and it received a $1 million grant from the Chicago Community Trust to carry out public outreach. No one would comment Wednesday on costs so far.

Included in the school board’s actions are changes to magnet and other lottery-based schools that set aside two seats for current teachers and staffers.

Many questions remain, such as the algorithm to be used to match students with programs. Joy Clendenning, a board member from Raise Your Hand, asked board members to consider taking another month to consider the application so families who’ll actually have to use it can see how it’ll work.

And Generation All, an organization advocating for neighborhood high schools, also wondered what CPS is going to do to invest in the open enrollment schools that will receive anyone who doesn’t apply so they too can attract students.

“How will we make sure everyone uses the process,” director Beatriz Ponce de Leon wondered. “The bigger question is what results will we get from this? Where do all the struggling students go? Where do all the kids who don’t test into anything going to go?”

In other matters, the board approved the sale of five schools, including the former Courtenay School Site at 1726 W. Berteau Ave. The property will be sold to the German School of Chicago NFP for $5.3 million. And it also approved the sale of the Former Montefiore School Site at 1310 S. Ashland. The property will be sold to Urban Prairie for $2,102,018.

To date, CPS has reached agreements to sell 2013 School Actions properties for a total of $29,749,115.