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Ald. Hairston to Seek Alternative School for South Shore

By Wendell Hutson | September 6, 2013 1:59pm
 The Magic Johnson Bridgescape is opening a South Side campus next month in Roseland.
Alternative School and Students
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SOUTH SHORE — Now that Magic Johnson Bridgescape decided not to open a campus in South Shore, Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) is pledging to work with the community to find a suitable location for a new alternative high school.

"South Shore needs an alternative high school," Hairston said.

And because of the alderman's commitment to finding a location she considers appropriate for an alternative high school in her ward, a planned protest rally Friday outside her ward office at 2325 E. 71st St. was called off, said Jedidiah Brown, a community organizer.

"We have decided to call off our protest this morning after reaching an agreement with the alderman that she would work with us to bring an alternative high school to South Shore," Brown said. "We take her at her word, so for now, that's good enough for us."

Two adults and three students still showed up at Hairston's office with picket signs ready to voice their opinions about the alderman's opposition to a location at 7037 S. Stony Island Ave. for Magic Johnson Bridgescape, an alternative high school that will now open a campus in Roseland instead.

Magic Johnson Bridgescape settled on a Roseland location after bumping up against Hairston, who voiced concerns about the proposed school on Stony Island.

Hairston said that she was never against Bridgescape opening a campus in her ward. Her concerns were the location being proposed for the school, which was near a day care center.

"As long as schools are placed in locations that are conducive to the neighborhood I don't have a problem with it," she said.

Carol Washington, a program director for Bridgescape, said 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."

Some of the applicants said they were unsure if they would still attend Bridgescape, citing safety concerns.

"I am not sure where I will go now that Bridgescape is going to Roseland," said Sharnice Jones, 18, who lives in West Chatham. "Traveling to the far South Side is not my thing. It's bad over there."

Jones said she previously attended Gary Comer College Prep High School in 2009 before leaving due to behavioral problems. Last year, she was enrolled in a GED program at Olive-Harvey College, but said she wanted to switch schools "because at Bridgescape I could get my high school diploma sooner."

Jones added that she plans to go to college after earning her high school diploma and then pursue her goal of becoming a Chicago Police officer.

"I have book smarts and street smarts, and you need those two things to be a good cop nowadays," Jones said.

Lawana Jones, Sharnice's mother, also has safety concerns.

"There is crime everywhere but Roseland is rough. The transportation is not that good out south either," she said. "If the school was in South Shore she could get there much faster and I would feel more comfortable knowing she is close to home. Out south she would have to ride the bus with kids from other high schools like Fenger."

And Danteral Wilson, 18, said besides his safety he chose an alternative high school because of costs.

"It costs too much to go to a regular high school. That's why I have not gone back. The fees are outrageous especially for seniors," Wilson said. "Bridgescape is free so that's why I want to go there."

Wilson said he previously attended William Harper High School in West Englewood but left after his freshman year in 2010 due to illness.

"I missed a lot of days because I was sick all the time," he added. "But now I am doing much better and I am ready to get back into school."