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Most Noble Charter Schools Still Recruiting Students For Next Year

By Ted Cox | May 11, 2016 6:22am
 The Noble Network of Charter Schools plays host to a High School Fair this weekend at Muchin College Prep, which unfortunately is not one of the Noble schools with slots open.
The Noble Network of Charter Schools plays host to a High School Fair this weekend at Muchin College Prep, which unfortunately is not one of the Noble schools with slots open.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

THE LOOP — The Noble Network of Charter Schools holds a High School Fair this weekend, as most of its 16 campuses still have slots open — fueling criticism that new charter schools aren't needed.

The fair takes place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Muchin College Prep, 1 N. State St. Unfortunately, however, Muchin held a lottery for freshman enrollment in February and already has a waiting list.

Ten other Noble charter schools are seeking freshmen for the fall term. On the North Side, they are Rauner College Prep, 1337 W. Ohio St.; Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy, 3645 W. Chicago Ave.; and Noble Academy, 1443 N. Ogden Ave.

On the West Side, there's DRW College Prep, 931 S. Homan Ave.

And the six on the South Side are Baker College Prep, 2710 E. 89th St.; Butler College Prep, 821 E. 103rd St.; Gary Comer College Prep, 7131 S. South Chicago Ave.; Johnson College Prep, 6350 S. Stewart Ave.; Hansberry College Prep, 8748 S. Aberdeen St.; and Noble's new campus at 47th Street and California Avenue.

"This is very much a normal part of the enrollment process this time of year," said Jonathan Chaparro, Noble's manager of student recruitment. "Many families are still in the decision-making process and evaluating multiple campuses, so this is a more convenient way to learn about different Noble schools in one place."

For many Chicago Public Schools students, the fair comes late in the decision-making game. Acceptance letters to selective-enrollment high schools in CPS went out back in February, and the deadline to accept spots was March 11.

Charter schools, however, set their own deadlines. Noble sent out acceptance letters the week of Feb. 19, according to its website, but the site did not give a deadline for students to accept offers of admission.

"We try to match with CPS enrollment," said Noble spokesman Cody Rogers. "After that, we just see which schools are definitely maxed out."

According to Rogers, Noble, CPS's largest charter network, had 11,000 students this year and aims for 12,000 in the fall with the addition of the new campus at 47th and California and growing schools at Baker, Butler, ITW David Speer Academy and Noble Academy.

"They'll take people as long as they show up and it's not gonna completely max out the building," he said. "As they get closer and closer to maxing out, they get quieter about soliciting" prospective students.

Most Noble schools will "probably do so for a couple more months," Rogers said.

Rogers added they're at about 90 percent of the 4,000 new students they expect for the fall. He said that in previous years Noble high schools held separate fairs, but this year they've consolidated at Muchin in order to streamline the process for those applying to multiple Noble campuses.

Yet the grassroots group Raise Your Hand has previously taken issue with the public demand for Noble's seats, charging that it's taking education dollars from neighborhood Chicago Public Schools in a zero-sum game.

"I'm not sure if Noble has had a fair this late before," said Jennie Biggs, of Raise Your Hand. "It does seem late, especially since those applications were due a few months ago."

Last fall, Raise Your Hand's Amy Smolensky did an informal study finding that five Noble schools were still accepting students a month into the school year.

"Why is the charter community rallying for more schools when there are plenty of openings in existing charter schools across Chicago, including Noble, and CPS’ enrollment has been declining for years, down roughly 14,000 students just since 2012?" Smolensky said.

Rogers countered that the 47th and California school is the only new Noble campus this fall. He allowed that Noble has a couple more concepts submitted as part of CPS' mandatory annual charter application process, but said, "They're pretty nonspecific," as to where and even when they'd open, adding that they're basically just paperwork at this point because CPS is "very bureaucratic" in its charter process.

"We just want to make sure we stay in the conversation," Rogers said.

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