LOGAN SQUARE — Parents of several nearby neighborhood schools and local activists gathered at Funston Elementary Tuesday night for a community congress, with many protesting the change of Ames Middle School into a military academy.
The Logan Square Neighborhood Association’s 52nd annual Congress drew around 300 people, including Ald. Joe Moreno (1st), Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Ald. Rey Colon (35th), Democrat State Rep.-elect Will Guzzardi from Logan Square, and Cook County Commissioner Jesus Garcia.
While issues of housing redevelopment at nearby Lathrop Homes and the fate of Kelvyn Park school were raised at the Congress, the transition of Ames took center stage, culminating in a march from Funston to Ames for what many described as a farewell procession to the neighborhood school.
“I don’t feel like we lost a battle, but I feel like something was taken from us — I feel like we’ve been robbed," said Monica Espinoza, who said that Chicago Public Schools officials have already made physical changes to Ames that have rendered the school mostly unrecognizable to its former occupants.
Guzzardi led attendees in an Ames rally for further action despite what many of those present described as the loss of the school.
At the congress, a group led by the Logan Square association announced plans to register 2,000 voters over the summer in an effort to put political pressure on community leaders like 26th Ward Ald. Roberto Maldonado, who had led the charge to change Ames into a military school.
“It’s a way to prove again and again that we’re not wrong — [Maldonado’s] the one who should be apologizing to the community,” Espinoza said, referencing a March advisory referendum in which two out of three voters in eight surrounding precincts voted to keep Ames a neighborhood school.
Other issues raised at the congress included:
• Concern over the fate of Kelvyn Park High School, where, in December, Chicago Public Schools officials proposed adding an 8th grade class to handle Ames students who did not want to attend a military school. No further announcements have been made regarding that proposal and the upcoming school year.
CPS office of family and community engagement director Bill Gerstein attempted to allay fears about both Ames and Kelvyn Park schools.
“My only hope is that everybody is working together for Kelvyn Park,” he said before being challenged by association youth leader Jennifer Valasquez, 19.
If CPS chief executive officer Barbara Byrd Bennett "is committed to the students then she should be here,” Valasquez said. “We’re scared and skeptical — August is right around the corner and no one has a plan.”
• The future of fair housing at Lathrop Homes, which sits on the border of Logan Square and Lincoln Park. The project is supported by Moreno, who called the redevelopment plan “exciting” if the city can “guarantee that all residents currently on site” have first access to the new units.