Marlen Garcia: A space jam in Little Village schools

SHARE Marlen Garcia: A space jam in Little Village schools

Maria Velasquez, director of the Telpochcalli Community Education Project, wants CPS to partner with parents and teachers to find suitable space for students at Spry Community Links High School in Little Village. Photo for the Sun-Times by Marlen Garcia.

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Parents and teachers associated with Saucedo Scholastic Academy and Telpochcalli School in Little Village don’t want officials from Chicago Public Schools to mess with a good thing.

That’s why many protested after Chicago Public Schools announced in December that Saucedo and Telpochcalli would be sharing their elementary school building with new schoolmates —  students from Spry Community Links High School. Parents and children even staged a sit-in a few weeks ago in the schools’ gymnasium.

Last week the Sun-Times’ Lauren FitzPatrick reported that CPS relented and would hold off on the consolidation. The schools are safe for now. But parents and teachers fear the issue will come up again at year’s end. They are working to come up with a plan to present later this year to CPS that solves the high school’s problem without adding to existing struggles of overcrowding at Saucedo and Telpochcalli, Maria Velasquez, executive director of the Telpochcalli Community Education Project said before 17 teachers and parents met Wednesday.


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“There is no space to add more grades,” Jackeline Gongora, whose two sons attended Telpochcalli, said of the cramped quarters. Two elementary schools with a combined enrollment of about 1,500 students having to share a building on West 24th Boulevard already puts limitations on classroom space as well as use of the gymnasium and cafeteria.

If Saucedo ever has an empty classroom to spare, teachers and students at Telpochcalli would love to use it. Many of Telpochcalli’s teachers don’t have classrooms, a prekindergarten teacher there, who is also a member of the Local School Council, told me this week.

“Our music teacher uses the computer lab,” the teacher, Vanessa Saucedo, said. “If there’s testing going on, he must go somewhere else.”

Both schools get by with little and provide their students a lot. Saucedo is a magnet school for students in prekindergarten to eighth grade, and students in almost every grade level blow away national averages for growth in reading and math, according to a 2015 school progress report by CPS.

Telpochcalli (pronounced tell-POACH-collie) is a bilingual arts school with artists in residence and instructors in visual arts, music and drama.

“Each school has its own identity and is known for various things,” the teacher, Saucedo, told me.

But there is empathy for the plight of students at nearby Spry, an elementary school and high school right around the corner from Saucedo-Telpochcalli.

The parent-teacher group is advocating for all the students, said Gabriela Nuñez, a Local School Council member and sixth grade teacher at Telpochcalli whose son is a student there. “They need space,” she added.

Some of Spry’s high school students take classes in space CPS leases from the Boys and Girls Club for $90,000 a year. CPS is in the middle of a fiscal nightmare and needs to save money wherever it can. It understandably wants to cut the lease payment.

The hope here is that CPS will work with the community. One parent at Wednesday’s meeting noted that finely tuned proposals to save Dyett High School in the Bronzeville neighborhood were submitted through a formal proposal process but rejected by CPS last fall. The district came up with its own solution to reopen the school. Some got the impression the community’s proposals weren’t seriously considered.

“We want a proposal that comes from the community,” Velasquez said. “We want [CPS] to be a partner.”


Follow Marlen Garcia on Twitter: @MarlenGarcia777

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