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Ames Parents, Students Overwhelmingly Oppose Military School, Polling Shows

By Victoria Johnson | November 21, 2013 8:19am
 Ames parents protest in front of CPS headquarters Wednesday.
Ames parents protest in front of CPS headquarters Wednesday.
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Courtesy Logan Square Neighborhood Association

LOGAN SQUARE — The votes are in and 97 percent of Ames Middle School parents and 94 percent of students want it to remain a neighborhood school and not become a military school, as proposed by CPS.

That's according to an unscientific poll Local School Council members conducted last week by setting up a voting booth for parents picking up report cards.

According to the council's count, only 11 of 320 adults polled supported converting Ames into a military school as announced by the mayor and Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) last month. Organizers said that group included parents, teachers and other adults either employed at or volunteering at the school.

The ballot asked — in both English and Spanish — "What do you want for the future of Ames?" then prompted the voter to select one of two choices: "Community school open to all students from the neighborhood" or "Military school that would not admit all students from the neighborhood."

CPS officials have said current Ames students would be guaranteed a spot in the new military program, but sixth-graders who had been planning to attend Ames next year would have to apply like all other students in the city.

In the days after Report Card Day, students also got a chance to vote in their homerooms, and 29 of the 488 students polled supported a military school focus while 459 did not.

Two Ames parents presented the numbers to the Chicago Board of Education at the monthly meeting Wednesday morning while several more stood outside holding signs that read "No Military School at Ames."

"For us, it seems they are going to pay attention now, because we are proving ourselves," neighborhood activist Leticia Barrera said.

In addition to the voting results, parents presented 2,481 signatures they have gathered on a petition opposing the conversion of Ames into a military school.

They plan to use to the petition to get a nonbinding referendum on the March primary ballot.

One of the two people who spoke at Wednesday's meeting said she felt they got their point across.

"I think we covered what we needed to cover," said Anna Espinosa, whose niece attends Ames and who had planned to enroll her son there.

Aside from presenting the votes and signatures, Espinosa said she and another Ames mother suggested other locations for a military school, such as one of the dozens of building left vacant after 49 schools closed last year.

"I feel like they're trying to get Ames because it is a beautiful school, in a beautiful location," she said of the 15-year-old building. "It is at its peak, and it's such a nice neighborhood."

CPS officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.