LOGAN SQUARE — Ames Middle School parents, teachers and other neighborhood activists plan to canvass the neighborhood to rally support for a ballot referendum on a controversial plan to convert the school to a military academy.
Despite strong opposition from politicians, parents, neighborhood activists and the Ames' Local School Council, the Chicago Board of Education last month approved plans to convert the school into a selective enrollment military academy and expanding it to include the ninth through 12th grades.
"There are 600 students at Ames, and they do not want a military school," Ames parent and Local School Council member Emma Segura said Thursday.
Though Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) and Mayor Rahm Emanuel support the change, several politicians have come out against it, including Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), state Sen. William Delgado (D-Chicago), Cook County Commissioner Edwin Reyes and candidate for the State House, Will Guzzardi.
Reyes, who attended Thursday's event, said despite his own time in the military, he does not think Ames should be converted into a military academy.
"As a proud U.S. Air Force veteran, I support the military, however, I do not support a military academy at Ames," he said. "The residents have spoken, the parents have spoken and the students have spoken, and they don't want a military school. Politicians and politics have prevailed against the will of the people."
Supporters of keeping Ames a neighborhood school successfully got a non-binding referendum added to the March 18 primary ballot in eight precincts around Ames' attendance boundaries. At Thursday's press conference, they said they will begin canvassing the precincts this weekend to drum up support for the cause.
The referendum asks, "Should Ames Middle School (1920 N. Hamlin Avenue) be maintained as a neighborhood school, rather than being converted into a military high school?"
Though the referendum would not itself change policy, it would be a symbolic victory for those who oppose the military academy.