Charter School Proposed Within a Mile of Four Closed Schools Faces Protest

By Darryl Holliday on January 22, 2014 7:12am 

 Officials will decide Wednesday if Austin's By The Hand Club for Kids will be approved as the site of a new charter school.
Officials will decide Wednesday if Austin's By The Hand Club for Kids will be approved as the site of a new charter school.
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DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday

AUSTIN — A new charter school that will operate within a mile of four closed CPS neighborhood elementary schools has some West Side residents calling foul.

The kindergarten-through-eighth-grade charter will be built inside the By The Hand Club for Kids, 415 N. Laramie Ave., and was approved Wednesday at a Chicago Public Schools board meeting.

The charter comes on the heels of last year's closing of four Austin neighborhood schools — Francis Scott Key, Louis Armstrong, Horatio May and Robert Emmet elementary schools.

The school is affiliated with the Moody Bible Institute and "other private interests outside the Austin community," according to Action Now.

In a written statement, Donnita Travis, executive director of the By The Hand Club, boasted of the organization's seven-years involvement in the Austin neighborhood, as well as a collaboration with the Chicago Education Partnership for the new school.

"By partnering with our local schools and their principals, we have identified children who would otherwise fail in school and likely drop out, giving them a second chance,"  Travis said.

But according to Action Now member Zerlina Smith, unlike some Chicago Public Schools that were closed last year, the charter does not offer parent and community services, such as job resources and training, along with an education for children.

"We need jobs," she said. "We actually need resources for the whole family, not just the children. If you don't have the resources for our children, how do you fund a new school?"

Members of Action Now formed a 15-person picket line in front of By The Hand Club Tuesday afternoon to demand that the school not open.

"This will not become a charter school," Smith told those gathered. "We're about to get radical, because this is not what we want. They're taking us back to 1965 — the Chicago Freedom Movement."

CPS said it is required by law to review all charter school proposals submitted through its request-for-proposals process.

 Officials will decide Wednesday if Austin's By The Hand Club for Kids (A) will be approved as the site of a new charter school located within 1 mile of four closed Chicago Public Schools.
Officials will decide Wednesday if Austin's By The Hand Club for Kids (A) will be approved as the site of a new charter school located within 1 mile of four closed Chicago Public Schools.
View Full Caption
DNAinfo/Darryl Holliday

Members of Action Now said they expected the proposal to be approved Wednesday regardless.

"CPS is committed to providing and expanding high-quality school options across the city — whether neighborhood, military, stem, IB or charter — to ensure that 100 percent of our students are college-ready and 100 percent college-bound," CPS spokeswoman Keiana Barrett said.

"CPS' final recommendations on this year's charter applications will reflect this commitment to our students and the families that we serve," Barrett said.

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