As CPS prepares to close a record number of schools, the fate of students and communities is in question.
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Chicago slated to launch new North Side high school
Another North Side elementary schools is poised to extend into a high school. On the agenda for the October School Board meeting is a proposal to expand Audubon Elementary School in Roscoe Village so that it will now include a high school. The Audubon High School follows behind Alcott High School for the Humanities and Ogden International High School, both of which opened in fall 2009. Alcott Elementary and High School are in Lincoln Park and Ogden Elementary is on the Gold Coast, although the high school is located in West Town.
Another North Side elementary schools is poised to extend into a high school. On the agenda for the October board meeting comes the proposal to expand Audubon Elementary School in Roscoe Village so that it will now include a high school.
The Audubon High School follows behind Alcott High School for the Humanities and Ogden International High School, both of which opened in Fall 2009. Alcott Elementary and High School are in Lincoln Park; while Ogden Elementary School is on the Gold Coast, but the high school is located in West Town.
These three high schools are among new public schools in the city, although they serve students in areas that were not identified as needing performing options in a 2004 report done by the Illinois Facilities Fund. That report was supposed to set the stage for the Renaissance 2010 initiative, which was Mayor Richard Daley’s project to improve education by opening new schools.
There are no South Side schools that serve children from kindergarten through 12th grade. On the West Side, Spry School has an elementary and high school.
Audubon Principal John Price says when Alcott and Ogden won approval, his school was already working on its proposal. “It let us know it could be done,” he says. “That the board was open to it.”
Like Alcott and Ogden, Audubon has far more white students (about 50 percent) and fewer low-income students (about 45 percent) than the district’s average.
They also receive a lot of support from the community and parents. Starting in 2006, the parents at the school created Friends of Audubon, specifically to raise money to better the school. According to the group’s annual report, in 2009-2010, they raised $140,000, most of which went to buying extra teachers.
Groups for Ogden and Alcott also raise big money for their schools. Their 2009 tax returns show that Friends of Alcott raised $419,000 and Friends of Ogden raided $159,000.
Price says CPS officials supported the Audubon high school proposal because it expands the school’s unique inclusion program for children with autism and related disorders. The program receives outside financial support from the Gust Family Foundation.
“The inclusion model has worked for special kids and for those who are not,” Price says.
The other selling point is that Price was able to secure $5.9 million—a big chunk of which comes from the Gust Family Foundation—to rehab empty space in a private school and keep the high school sustainable for 10 years. “It won’t cost the school district anything,” Price says.
Price says the new high school will also be small, something that is needed on the North Side. Lake View High School, the neighborhood high school where Audubon students would otherwise attend, has 1,500 students.
Only in recent years has Audubon Elementary School become one of the city’s better elementary schools. In 2010, 85 percent of students met or exceeded standards, compared to just 64 percent in 2005.
Eighth-grade students from Audubon will automatically have a reserved seat in the high school, Price says. But whether they will take advantage of it is another story.
Kenneth Staral, principal of Ogden High School and Elementary School, says he pushed for the high school as an alternative for “good” students who didn’t get into selective enrollment schools. Otherwise, Ogden’s elementary school students are lost to private high schools.
For many of Ogden’s students, Wells would be their neighborhood high school. And Staral says few of his families want to send their students to Wells.
As of yet, it is unclear whether Ogden and Alcott are retaining their elementary school students. Staral says about 40 percent of those that attended Ogden Elementary came back to high school.
The demographic makeup of Alcott and Ogden elementary schools also has so far been different from the high schools. Alcott is 60 percent white; the high school is only 13 percent white. Meanwhile, Ogden’s elementary school is 48 percent white, double that of its high school.
The district is about 9 percent white.