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Kenwood Academy Principal Says School Might Need to Turn Away Students Soon

By Sam Cholke | November 13, 2013 8:46am
 Kenwood Academy Principal Gregory Jones said the school might need to consider capping enrollment in the future unless over crowding at the school is resolved.
Kenwood Academy Principal Gregory Jones said the school might need to consider capping enrollment in the future unless over crowding at the school is resolved.
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DNAinfo/Sam Cholke

KENWOOD — The principal of Kenwood Academy is suggesting the neighborhood high school stop accepting all comers to ease overcrowding.

“We get probably 100-plus kids between the first day of school and now and we get no support from the district, none,” Principal Gregory Jones said at a Tuesday local school council meeting at the high school, 5015 S. Blackstone Ave.

As a public neighborhood high school, Kenwood Academy must accept all students who want to enroll, a situation Jones said is unsustainable at the school, which is already over-enrolled.

“If a student enters the school today and says they live in the park, even if they don’t, we have to enroll them — and that’s not rare, that happens all the time,” Jones said.

Kenwood currently has 1,819 students attending classes in a school built to handle 1,646 and that Jones said would operate most efficiently with 1,500 students.

Jones said at some point soon the school will need to consider turning students away or start cracking down on students who lie about their address to attend the high school.

“We’re going to get another batch of students from the charter schools at the end of the semester, we always do,” said Becka Bor, a social studies teacher at Kenwood.

Bor was one of several teachers at the Wednesday meeting to express concerns that education at the school would decline if the school continues to pack students into makeshift classrooms.

“Our enrollment is packed right now, and yet jobs are not completely secure,” said Neha Patel, a Spanish teacher at the school, concerned that teachers would leave if they continued to get packed classes every year with fewer resources if Chicago Public Schools continues budget cuts in the future.

According to Jones, Kenwood is a victim of its own success.

Kenwood is the only free high school that is not selective enrollment on the South Side that parents are willing to send their kids to, he said. And parents are willing to lie about where they live to get their kids into Kenwood, he said.

“This is not new,” Jones said, but stopped short of saying how many students at the school fudged their address to enroll.

He said the school at some point will face the difficult decision of capping enrollment and turning away local students who move to the area after the first day of school, or cracking down on fraud and turning away students who might thrive at Kenwood.

Jones said the building has a limit on the number of students it can take and it is approaching that limit now.

“This is probably one of the few rooms that we’re not using for classes,” Jones said during the meeting in the library.

According to a 10-year plan released in May, CPS plans to operate the school at its current enrollment levels through 2023.