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Intrinsic Charter School Will Not Open On The Near West Side, Ald. Confirms

By Stephanie Lulay | July 21, 2016 1:20pm
 Intrinsic Charter School network no longer plans to open a charter school in the old Revere factory in East Garfield Park, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) confirmed.
Intrinsic Charter School network no longer plans to open a charter school in the old Revere factory in East Garfield Park, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) confirmed.
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DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay

EAST GARFIELD PARK — After pitching plans to the community, Intrinsic Schools no longer plan to open a charter high school in East Garfield Park, a West Side alderman confirmed. 

Intrinsic charter leaders pitched plans to open a charter high school in the old Revere Electric Supply site, 2501 W. Washington Blvd., to neighbors on the Near West Side earlier this month. But this week, the charter's attorney said the team no longer planned to open a school at the site, Ald. Walter Burnett Jr. (27th) confirmed. 

"They called me today and said that they charged their mind," Burnett said earlier this week. 

In an email to a resident that was provided to DNAinfo, Intrinsic attorney Solomon Lieberman said that the company decided not to proceed forward with the second campus for "varied" reasons. 

"We are hopeful that we can find opportunities to work with you in the future," the attorney wrote. 

Calling the Revere building "perfect," Intrinsic Schools planned to open a technology-focused high school at the East Garfield Park site that aimed to serve 1,000 students, said founder Melissa Zaikos.

Before pitching plans in East Garfield Park, Intrinsic planned to open a high school in Lincoln Square in 2015, but that plan also failed. Intrinsic operates a campus at 4540 W. Belmont Ave. on the North Side that opened in 2013. 

Burnett previously said he planned to consider input from Garfield Park Community Council, Eckhart Park Community Council and Homeowners of West Town, whose neighborhoods bordered the site. 

After the July 5 meeting, Burnett attempted to take an up-or-down vote from residents, but at the time, residents instead asked for another meeting. Burnett agreed, but said the next meeting would be "do or die." 

Ultimately, the controversial charter plan received a mixed reaction from residents, Burnett said. Some residents wanted to see the vacant building and site used for an educational use, and others rejected the charter's plan, he said.  

Left:Intrinsic Schools founder Melissa Zaikos pitches plans to East Garfield Park residents. Right: Crane Medical Prep High School Principal Fareeda Shabazz speaks out against the charter proposal. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

After Intrinsic pulled its plans, Chicago Teacher Union organizer Martin Ritter, who lobbied against the charter school, called the charter expansion "unnecessary." Area CPS principals, including Crane Medical Prep High School Principal Fareeda Shabazz, were among those urging Burnett to reject the proposal. 

"This is exciting news. CTU members, local school administration, LSC members, and community leaders were organizing to stop this unnecessary charter expansion. We encourage Intrinsic Inc. to cancel future openings," Ritter said. "The district can't afford it."

Burnett, a longtime alderman who about a half-dozen charter high schools in his ward, including nearby Chicago Bulls College Prep and Youth Connection Charter Virtual High School, said that he "is not prejudice against any type of school."  

"I'm pro kids in my ward. I'm pro what parents want for their kids. If that's charter schools, I support that, if they don't want charters, I support that. My main concern is about the children," he said. "I'm not an advocate for [charters], I'm just open-minded about children getting a good education." 

Intrinsic Schools planned to open a charter school at the old Revere Electric Supply site, but leaders later changed their mind. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

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