CHICAGO — Chicago Public Schools officials have recommended that the Board of Education deny a bid from Be the Change, a progressive, teacher-led charter school looking to open in Bridgeport.
The recommendation was part of a meeting Wednesday where the school district recommended seven new charter schools to open across the city and denied recommendations for 10 others, including Be the Change.
"While we are disappointed with the outcome, we respect the wishes of the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education," said Eliza Bryant, a representative of Be the Change. "Be the Change Charter School aimed to provide a unique approach to teaching and learning — an approach that doesn't exist in its entirety in this city — and we are sad that students, families and teachers won't be able to experience it."
The group was looking to open in the Bridgeport Art Center, a mixed-use space at 1200 W. 35th St. and recruit students from the McKinley Park, Bridgeport, Armour Square and Pilsen neighborhoods for its kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school with a focus on an educational method called interdisciplinary learning.
Designed by teachers trained at the University of Chicago's Urban Teacher Education Program, the prospective school’s approach was to offer an alternative to the traditional classroom with a curriculum that focused on the “academic, intellectual, artistic, social, emotional and civic growth of each student.”
Outside of the classroom, the school leaders wanted to create an open-to-the public community center, where residents could drop in for workshops hosted by various groups.
But the proposal was met with harsh criticism from neighborhood activists and leaders with the Chicago Teachers Union who say the proliferation of new charters steals students — and money — away from existing neighborhood schools and privatizes public education.
Be the Change also faced intense questioning at a recent community forum, where charter opponents said the group's proposal "lacked depth" and blasted the group for moving to open a new charter after CPS closed nearly 50 schools just last year.