PULLMAN — Had the Chicago Public Schools gone ahead with initial plans to close underutilized high schools as part of the citywide school closures this year, George H. Corliss High School could have been among those shuttered.
But now that a new charter school is moving into Corliss, the 38-year-old neighborhood school might be spared from closure for the time being.
Pullman College Preparatory High School is set to begin classes Aug. 19 at Corliss, 821 E. 103rd St. with 150 freshmen. It plans to add a new grade in each of the next three years until it is a full four-year high school.
Students are not required to live in Pullman to attend the new school but must reside in Chicago. A separate entrance is being built for the new school, which will also have its own signs outside.
"I'd say we have about 70 students registered with a goal of having a freshmen class of 150," said Christopher Goins, principal of Pullman College Prep, one of 14 charter high schools operated by the nonprofit Noble Network of Charter Schools. "Our purpose for opening a campus in Pullman is to give parents on the far South Side more educational choices."
According to CPS data, Corliss had 558 students this school year even though the school could accommodate up to 2,000 students.
School system officials initially considered closing underutilized high schools, but eventually decided to close only elementary schools, citing safety issues among other reasons. A CPS spokesman, though, could not say whether Corliss would have been targeted for closure.
Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) is an alumnus of Corliss and said declining enrollment forced "some creative ways to keep it open."
Beale questioned why the new school was calling itself a college prep institution when it did not yet offer Advanced Placement classes.
"I don't want parents to be misled into thinking it is a college prep school when AP classes are not being offered," Beale said. "To my knowledge, freshmen are not eligible to take AP classes. So why not come in and prove yourself first before adding 'college prep' to your school's name?"
Like most charter schools, Pullman College Prep will have an open enrollment, so students are not required to take an entrance exam as required at selective enrollment high schools such as Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep.
Still, Pullman College Prep is different from neighborhood schools, Goins said.
"What separates us from neighborhoods schools is our discipline and approach to teaching. Every freshman will take two math and three English courses, which will also incorporate a reading class," Goins said. "We know that there will be students coming [to us] from neighborhood elementary schools that did not fully prepare them for high school and will need help getting caught up."
Goins, who moved to Chicago last August from his native North Carolina, added he has visited a lot of neighborhood schools since arriving in Chicago and clearly see differences between them and Noble schools.
"Frankly speaking, the only decent high school on the far South Side is Gwendolyn Brooks. Unlike other neighborhood schools, our students will not have to pass through metal detectors and students cannot roam through the hallways," Goins said. "Students cannot use cell phones while inside the building. It cannot be visibly seen or it will be confiscated."
He added the school would have smaller class sizes, too.
"Each class will have about 15 students, which allows for teachers to give more individualized time to those who need it," said Goins, who said he taught for 10 years before becoming a principal.
The school day at Pullman College Prep will begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. for all students, who will be required to wear a uniform of white shirts and tan pants.
There will be a meeting Wednesday for parents looking to enroll their children or get more information about the school. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at Noble's Auburn Gresham College Prep campus, 8748 S. Aberdeen Ave.