ROSELAND — After running into opposition from Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) over a proposed site in South Shore, Magic Johnson Bridgescape, which operates alternative high schools nationally, will instead open its second Chicago campus in Roseland next month, school officials confirmed.
"We would have preferred to have a campus in South Shore but after much consideration we have decided to open a campus in Roseland, which is in the 34th Ward," said Michael Serpe, a spokesman for Magic Johnson Bridgescape.
"People need to know that we do not have the final say in where our campuses our located," he said. "That decision rests with Chicago Public Schools."
And because the new campus is expected to open in mid-October, securing a location immediately was critical.
"Magic Johnson Bridgescape Academy decided last week to relocate their newest academy to the Roseland area, due to an inability to find a location in the South Shore neighborhood that would be ready in their time frame," said Keiana Barrett, CPS press secretary.
The new school will be located in the 10900 block of South Halsted Street, a source said, though Serpe would not comment.
A day care, Children's Developmental Institute, is also located on that block. The school, which is named after NBA Hall of Famer Earvin "Magic" Johnson, tends to open locations near day cares.
"A lot of our students are young mothers and unless there is day care nearby, many of them won't come to school," said Serpe. "Our schools in Ohio are near day cares and there have been no problems at all."
A number of school buildings citywide are empty after this year's closure of 49 underutilized elementary schools by CPS, including two in the 5th Ward, Hairston said. Regardless, those schools were never considered for Magic Johnson Bridgescape.
"We've said all along that we won't reopen any closed school as a charter school, as that would defeat the purpose of closing underutilized schools in neighborhoods that have experienced declines in student population," said David Miranda, a spokesman for CPS.
Bridgescape had sought to open a campus in South Shore at 7037 S. Stony Island Ave. near the Children's Developmental Institute's South Shore location before running into opposition from Hairston. The alderman had expressed concerns of having a high school that caters to older students who might be struggling "with issues" near a day care.
Throughout the whole process in trying to find a "suitable" location for Bridgescape, Hairston complained that the school system and Mayor Rahm Emanuel worked against her.
"I don't need [Emanuel's] permission to run my ward. [The mayor and CPS] were suggesting sites for the school without talking to me first," she said. "I was never opposed to having an alternative school in my ward because South Shore needs one."
Mayoral spokeswoman Tarrah Cooper was unavailable for comment.
A group of Bridgescape supporters composed of parents and students plans to protest outside of Hairston's ward office at 2325 E. 71st St. at 9:30 a.m. Friday, said Ashley Barnes, 25, one of the rally organizers.
"I was born and raised in South Shore so I care deeply about what goes on in the 5th Ward," said Barnes, who now lives in Bronzeville. "The students were hurt when they learned the school would not be located in South Shore. They feel that what they want does not matter and we want the alderman to know how we feel."
According to Carol Washington, a program director for Bridgescape, 400 students have registered for its South Side campus even though it only has space for 150.
"Students will be chosen on a first-come, first-served basis," Washington said. "Quite a few students registered live in South Shore but now that we won't be opening a campus in South Shore it is my belief that we will lose many of them."
Monique Hutcherson attended South Shore High School for three years before she dropped out due to illness. On Thursday, she registered to attend Bridgescape.
"I heard about this school on the radio and thought I'd give it a try," said the 20-year-old Park Manor resident. "One day I want to go to college but I need to finish high school first."