THE LOOP — A Chicago Public Schools hearing Thursday on the proposed relocation of a Noble charter high school to Buena Park produced a back and forth between supporters and opponents of the move.
"The addition of a charter school in this area will weaken our five great neighborhood high schools," said Ald. James Cappleman (46th). "Allowing this charter school to locate in Uptown will harm the schools we have, and Uptown and Lakeview say no to Noble and no to charter schools, which would suck the lifeblood from our neighborhood schools."
Aldermen have joined principals at other nearby North Side high schools in resisting the attempt to move Noble Academy from its Downtown location to the building at Irving Park Road and Lake Shore Drive previously occupied by Lycee Francais de Chicago.
"Opening a charter or any high school in our respective communities will undermine the efforts that are currently underway and the momentum we have gained in our neighborhood high schools through the hard work and dedication of our staff and our communities," said Susan Lofton, principal of Senn High School. "Relocating or opening a new school will be a detrimental diversion of needed resources away from our existing schools."
Principals and Local School Councils at Senn, Lake View, Amundsen, Sullivan and Uplift High School have all gone on record against the move, joined by parents from elementary schools in the North Side area as well.
"Our communities are committed to the growth and success of our existing public schools, and we thought our mayor and the board of education were equally committed," said Jeff Jenkins, a parent at Coonley School in North Center. "Yet, our district’s billion-dollar deficit and the fact that there are no overcrowding issues at our high schools [means] this plan makes no sense."
Opponents believe that Noble could siphon off students and — given the district's budgeting based on student population — funding from neighborhood schools.
Yet Noble Academy Principal Pablo Sierra said the school and its 187 students needed the move from its current location at 17 N. State St., and the city would benefit. "This is about offering more quality choices to all public students in the City of Chicago," Sierra said. "This school is about quality open-enrollment choice for all families in the city."
"It will better support the academic needs of our students," added Angelica Alfaro, advocacy manager for Noble schools.
Noble students and parents argued for the move, while other parents and students were against it.
Cappleman (46th) was joined in opposition by colleagues in the City Council including Aldermen Ameya Pawar (47th), Tom Tunney (44th) and Harry Osterman (48th).
CPS officials have maintained they are trying to offer students and parents a choice in education options.
"We're not here to engage in discussion, but rather to hear from the public," said CPS hearing officer Margaret Fitzpatrick.
Yet Jennifer Vidis, executive director of CPS' Office of Education Options, testified that CPS supported the relocation.
The Board of Education will weigh the relocation at its meeting next week. Cappleman said the City Council would have no additional say or oversight on the move.
Noble is also applying to open a new charter in Rogers Park, opposed by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Chicago), state Representatives Kelly Cassidy (D-Chicago) and Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago), as well as the aldermen named above, but that was not on the agenda for Thursday's hearing.
Those politicians, along with Cook County Clerk David Orr, a Rogers Park resident, sent a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Board of Education President David Vitale and interim CPS Chief Executive Officer Jesse Ruiz expressing "fervent opposition" to both Noble proposals, stating: "We should be dedicating our resources to improving our neighborhood schools, not adding more charter schools that undermine our neighborhood schools."
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