UPDATE: On Thursday, Chicago Public Schools officials clarified their plans for Ames Middle School. They said Ames would remain open shift its focus to become a military school It will also be expanded to include a high school. Marine Math and Science Academy will not move, as was previously reported, but will be expanded, too, officials said.
WEST LOOP — The mayor defended his proposed move of Marine Math and Science Academy into Ames Middle School Wednesday, saying it would improve school choice and ease overcrowding.
"We have a single goal as a city," Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a West Loop news conference. "Every child will be college-ready, and every child will be college-bound. And the military high schools do a great job of that."
Emanuel said the city's military academies graduate 80 percent of their students and send 90 percent of those on to four-year colleges. He also cited how he had helped set up Marine Military while a congressman.
Emanuel said the move would allow Marine Military and Phoenix Military to add a combined 1,200 additional students, improving school choice in the city.
"We are opening up more potential, which is, I believe, 100 percent in choice," Emanuel said. "Choice includes those schools, because more parents want to send their kids to school."
Yet many Ames parents have not welcomed the shift. And Board of Education President David Vitale pledged to them last December that there were no plans to turn Ames into a military academy in the building at 1920 N. Hamlin Ave. Ald. Robert Maldonado (26th) had pushed for the move, but Ames parent Gayle Storm said at the time, "We need to keep him out of this."
"When David spoke we didn't have the report on overcrowding," Emanuel said Wednesday. "This deals with allowing both [military] schools to grow to their full potential and the support that Maldonado built in the community to see this happen."
Ames has fewer than 500 students, and the building has a reported capacity of 1,100. Marine Military has 400 students at 145 S. Campbell Ave.
The recent overcrowding report has prompted Chicago Public Schools to seek proposals for new charter schools, a move challenged by those favoring neighborhood schools.
The move still must be approved by Vitale and the Board of Education.