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Is Mount Greenwood School's Overcrowding Solution ... At St. Xavier?

By Howard Ludwig | September 22, 2016 8:44am
 St. Xavier University owns several building throughout Mount Greenwood. Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) said Wednesday night that he's looking at a pair of university facilities in an effort to ease overcrowding at Mount Greenwood Elementary School
St. Xavier University owns several building throughout Mount Greenwood. Ald. Matt O'Shea (19th) said Wednesday night that he's looking at a pair of university facilities in an effort to ease overcrowding at Mount Greenwood Elementary School
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MOUNT GREENWOOD — Two buildings owned by St. Xavier University are being considered as a possible solution to overcrowding at Mount Greenwood Elementary School, according to 19th Ward Ald. Matt O'Shea.

O'Shea said the buildings at 104th Street and Spaulding Avenue and 110th Street and St. Louis Avenue will be toured Thursday by a member of his staff and someone from Chicago Public Schools' facilities team.

Tapping the university's buildings in the neighborhood was one of several ideas that emerged from a series of five public meetings O'Shea has attended in the 16 days since he proposed a major public elementary school restructuring plan in the 19th Ward.

St. Xavier "might come back and say, 'We are not interested,'" he said after a town hall meeting Wednesday night at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences in Mount Greenwood.

The meeting was sparsely attended compared to other meetings held about the plan. Passionate speeches and upset crowds have been common at these gatherings.

Those most upset by the plan seem to be parents of children attending Kellogg and Sutherland elementary schools in Beverly. O'Shea has proposed merging these two schools, saying participation by families living within the schools' neighborhood boundaries has declined.

Meanwhile, Mount Greenwood Elementary School's enrollment has climbed, despite a pair of additions to the school totaling $13 million in the last five years, O'Shea said.

The alderman has recommended that the nearby Keller Regional Gifted Center in Mount Greenwood move to the Kellogg campus that he would close in Beverly as part of his plan.

Students at Mount Greenwood would then have a two-campus school, taking over Keller's nearby facilities at 3020 W. 108th St. The cost savings from the shifts would be used for a "significant investment" at Esmond Elementary School in Morgan Park, which has facilities in dire need of an overhaul, O'Shea said.

"It's old. It's crumbling. It's falling apart," said O'Shea in reference to Esmond's buildings, the worst of which was built cheaply in 1971 at 1865 W. Montvale Ave.

Earlier in the day, O'Shea sent an email to constituents saying he plans to present the feedback he's gathered during the community meetings to CPS. He said several questions arose during the meetings.

"I would like to thank everyone who offered feedback during this process. I look forward to coming back to the community with additional information next month," O'Shea said in the email.

He then reiterated that no decisions have been made in regards to proceeding with his proposal, and alternative ideas — like looking into available space at St. Xavier — are still being considered.

Beyond handing over the information to CPS, O'Shea said he has no plans to present his proposal at the upcoming CPS board meeting Wednesday, and he highly doubts the plan will make it to the agenda next month either.

He said an Oct. 1 CPS filing deadline is largely irrelevant to his proposal, despite several groups claiming otherwise. The deadline applies to criteria to evaluate schools throughout the city and is not specific to his plan, O'Shea said.

O'Shea said he's eager to get information and feedback from CPS, particularly how much needs to be invested in the buildings potentially involved in the shift.

Once he knows how much it will cost to move the schools around, he will then know how much money he can earmark for Esmond, he said. From there, it can be determined what the improvements at the Morgan Park school might look like.

There are other lingering issues, including teacher reassignment, concerns about the Options for Knowledge program that allows students living outside neighborhood boundaries to attend Kellogg and Sutherland, and more, an O'Shea staffer said.

Once those questions are answered, O'Shea will return to the principals and local school councils with answers. He also suggested that anyone wanting to have their specific thoughts on the plan included in the information he presents to CPS email him directly at mattoshea@the19thward.com.

"I am looking at all options," he said.

Meanwhile, those opposed to the plan will have a "Unity Walk"  at 2 p.m. Saturday beginning at Kellogg, 9241 S. Leavitt St. Marchers will then head to Sutherland Elementary School at 10015 S. Leavitt St.

The final stop will be at O'Shea's office at 10400 S. Western Ave. O'Shea's said Wednesday he will not be in the office when the group arrives.

“At a time when Chicago’s leaders say they want to offer the best educational opportunities to all Chicago students, [O'Shea's] proposal would take those opportunities away,” said Micheal O’Doherty, a parent at Kellogg and spokesman for the coalition behind the walk.

“We demand the alderman rescind his proposal and work with a joint task force that will help strengthen, rather than hurt, schools in our community,” O’Doherty said in a news release issued Thursday morning.

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