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Magic Johnson High School Opens First South Side Campus

By Wendell Hutson | November 13, 2013 7:52am
 A South Side campus for the Magic Johnson Bridgescape school opened Nov. 4, 2013, at 10928 S. Halsted St.
Magic Johnson Bridgescape School
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ROSELAND — A week after opening its South Side campus, the Magic Johnson Bridgescape high school has reached full capacity and now has a waiting list as long as its 150-student roster.

"There is open enrollment all year, but at this point we have to place new applicants on a waiting list," said Brittany Bennett, a manager at the campus. "This demonstrates that there is a real need for us."

The new campus at 10928 S. Halsted St. is the second Chicago location for the national school. It also has a campus in North Lawndale and in September it unsuccessfully tried to open one in South Shore.

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) had opposed a location for the school at 7035 S. Stony Island Ave. because it would have been near a daycare center.

"Typically students attending alternative high schools are older than your traditional high school [students], and they may have experienced some problems that led to them not finishing school, which is not a bad thing," Hairston said. "I just don't think putting a school with teenagers and young adults who may have experienced some difficulties and who might still be struggling with issues is a good fit near a daycare."

A daycare center had previously occupied the Halsted Street site where the new campus now resides.

Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), whose ward includes the new campus, said she embraced the school coming to her neighborhood.

"I am glad that I got it. These kids are not bad. They chose to go back to school. This is not an alternative high school but an optional school," Austin said.

The school prefers to be located near a daycare center because "a lot of our students are single mothers," said Carol Washington, a spokeswoman for Magic Johnson Bridgescape. "Childcare is a huge barrier for female students returning to school."

Half of the students at the South Side campus are women, Bennett said.

"And nearly all of the students here live on the South Side," Bennett added. She said a lot of the students come from ZIP codes that include Roseland, West Pullman, Englewood, Auburn Gresham, Woodlawn, Morgan Park and Chatham.

Students attend one of two sessions at Magic Johnson Bridgescape. The morning session is from 7:30-11:30 a.m. and the afternoon session is from noon-4 p.m.

Students do not have to wear uniforms, but they must adhere to a strict attendance policy.

"If a student misses three days without notifying us that could lead to them being put on probation," Bennett said. "We are here to help them complete their education, and in order for that to happen they must be here every day."

David Miranda, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools, said the academy is part of the school district's new Alternative Learning Opportunity Program, which provides options for out-of-school and off-track students seeking to re-engage and graduate.

On Wednesday, Drequan Burglar, a 15-year-old freshman transfer from Percy Julian High School, will start his first day at the South Side campus.

"I could have stayed at Julian but I decided to come here instead. My mom told me about this school and I decided to give it a try," Burglar said. "The kids at Julian are rowdy and I don't like it there anymore."

Burglar's mom, Cherita Green, said she likes that Magic Johnson Bridgescape is close to their West Pullman home.

"I think this will be a better setting for him. A place where he can learn self-respect, discipline and learn how to stay focused," Green said. "I have a good feeling about this school."