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CPS Community Meeting to Discuss Near South Education Plan

1/17/2018, noon | Updated on 1/17/2018, noon
“I want to make it very clear that we are 100 percent in support of this plan,” said Tina Feldstein, ...
Community Members spoke out in both agreement and opposition of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) proposed plan to transition the National Teachers Academy (NTA) elementary school into a neighborhood high school at a public meeting held on Jan. 9. Photo Credit: Katherine Newman

CPS Community Meeting to Discuss Near South Education Plan

By: Katherine Newman

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) held the first of three community meetings, on Jan. 9, to receive public comments

about the proposed transition of the National Teachers Academy (NTA) elementary school into a neighborhood high

school.

The building currently housing NTA elementary is located at 55 W. Cermak Rd. The presentation was given by Chip Johnson, chief officer for family and community engagement for CPS.

The potential high school conversion involves NTA gradually converting into a high school over time. The transition is proposed to begin in the 2019-2020 school year with grades pre-k through third moving to South Loop School while allowing students in grades fourth through eighth to remain in the current NTA building.

Every year following the initial transition, NTA will lose a lower-grade level while gaining an upper-grade level until the building houses only grades nine through twelve, essentially making the original unmoved eight grade students the first

graduating class from the new high school.

The plan states that all NTA students will be guaranteed a seat at the new high school regardless of whether they live

outside the proposed boundary.

“From this engagement, we heard a lot of feedback from various perspectives including those interested in a high school and potential boundaries, as well as others who want to maintain NTA as an elementary school including its strong culture and staff,” said Johnson. “We’ve worked to adjust our proposal to various points of feedback including expanding

the South Loop Elementary boundaries to include all of NTA’s

current boundary and releasing an initial draft boundary for community feedback.”

Several community members spoke out after the presentation to state their opposition to the transition plan for NTA.

“On behalf of 25,000 teachers, Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel (PSRPs), and clinicians that make the schools in this entire city go every day, I want to firmly state our opposition to this plan to phase out and close NTA,” said Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union. “The plan is ill-conceived in that it undermines the academic success at a jewel of a neighborhood school.”

Though there were more comments asking for the preservation of NTA and it’s current community, a few people approached the microphone to comment on the obvious lack of a quality high school in this area.

“I want to make it very clear that we are 100 percent in support of this plan,” said Tina Feldstein, President of the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance and South Loop resident. “There have been a lot of people that have been crying and calling for a neighborhood high school for many years. Many people in the South Loop have been leaving because there is no opportunity and it’s so difficult to get into a selective enrollment high school.”

The purpose of these meetings is to allow Janice K. Jackson, Chief Executive Officer of CPS, and the Board of Education to hear feedback from the community about the proposal.

After the series of three community meetings are completed, Jackson will make a recommendation to the board who will vote on the matter at the February Board of Education meeting.

The next community meeting regarding the Near South Education Plan will be held on Jan. 16 from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. at the Second Presbyterian Church, 1936 S. Michigan Ave.

For more information or to submit a comment about the proposed plan, visit cps.edu/transitions.