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Parents Rip CPS Plan To Pack More Students Into Saucedo Building

By Joe Ward | January 21, 2016 4:10pm
 State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, speaks about the challenges of bringing the John Spry high school students to the Saucedo Academy building at a community meeting at Saucedo Wednesday.
State Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago, speaks about the challenges of bringing the John Spry high school students to the Saucedo Academy building at a community meeting at Saucedo Wednesday.
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DNAinfo/Joe Ward

LITTLE VILLAGE — A CPS proposal to house a third school in the Maria Saucedo Academy building is facing significant opposition from parents, teachers and community members, many of whom staged a sit-in at the school to show their disapproval.

The sit-in came at the tail end of a community meeting at Saucedo, 2850 W. 24th Blvd., Wednesday where more than 100 people came out to discuss the "co-location" plan. Virtually all of the people who spoke were opposed to the plan or wanted CPS to delay its plans.

Chicago Public Schools announced in December that it wished to begin transitioning nearby John Spry high school students into the Saucedo building, saying the "co-location" plan will save CPS money and bring Spry students into a better facility.

That's because Spry, a pre-kindergarten through high school institution, houses its three-year "accelerated" high school classes in the Little Village Boys and Girls Club at 2950 W. 25th St., according to CPS.

The move would allow CPS to end its lease with the club, which CPS pays $95,000 a year, according to Saucedo teachers and parents.

But parents and teachers say that isn't a good enough reason to bring the students to Saucedo, 2850 W. 24th Blvd. The Saucedo building already houses Telpochcalli Elementary.

Parents, teachers and community members at the meeting said Saucedo and Telpochcalli are already operating near capacity, and that crowding the schools could hurt education and extracurricular activities.

According to CPS data, Saucedo, with nearly 1,200 students, is operating at 87 percent of capacity, which is considered "efficient."

Telpochcalli has 288 students, while Spry has 172 students.

"There's just simply not enough room to offer ... a quality education while housing a high school," said Saucedo teacher Ashley Reyes.

Saucedo is a Level 1-plus school, the best rating in the CPS system. Further crowding the building would jeopardize that status, teacher and parents said. (Telpochcalli is a Level 2 school).

Parents charged that CPS wouldn't do this to a top-rated school on the North Side or to a predominantly white school population. Zerlina Smith, Saucedo parent, called the proposal a "racist attack on brown and black babies."

"We want our children to get the same education as those sitting on the stage's children," she said.

Under the proposal, Spry's 9th grade class will move next school year to Saucedo while the other grades return to the main Spry building, allowing CPS to end its lease with the Boys and Girls Club next year.

CPS estimates that Spry will need 10 classrooms in the Saucedo building by fall 2018. Three rooms in the building will be remodeled so they can house classes, CPS said.

Dianna Zurawski, Saucedo teacher, said school employees were presented a floor plan earlier in the week. She said the "long-term plan" calls for the removal of one classroom per grade level to accommodate the new students.

"This proposal needs to be thrown out," she said. "This is just to save $95,000. We are worth more than that."

The Wednesday meeting was the second community meeting on the proposal. A public hearing will be held Jan. 27 at 6 p.m. in CPS offices at 42 W. Madison St. The Board of Education will vote on the proposals at its February meeting.

"CPS appreciates the community's feedback on proposed school actions," CPS spokesman Michael Passman said in a statement. "We will carefully consider the supportive and concerned comments from the community."

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