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Rogers Park Charter Seeks To Add 100 High Schoolers Over Next Four Years

By Linze Rice | March 16, 2017 5:59am
 Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park hopes to expand its high school by 100 students over the next four years, according to Chicago Public Schools.
Chicago Math and Science Academy in Rogers Park hopes to expand its high school by 100 students over the next four years, according to Chicago Public Schools.
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DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

ROGERS PARK — A charter school in Rogers Park wants to add 100 high school students over the next four years, according to Chicago Public Schools. 

Chicago Math and Science Academy, 7212 N. Clark St., submitted a request to add approximately 25 students to its 9-12 grades each year over the next four years starting this fall. The number of students added each year could fluctuate, but would not exceed the 100 total.

The proposal will be considered by the Chicago Board of Education in an upcoming meeting April 26, a representative for the school said. The public will have an opportunity to comment.

The request also would have to get approval from the state.

According to CPS attendance data, the school has a current population of 600 — which also includes students in 6-8 grades. In the high school, there are about 86 freshmen, 82 sophomores, 87 juniors and 90 seniors. 

CPS spokesman Michael Passman said officials would "rigorously evaluate the proposal to help determine if it would meet a need in the community for additional high-quality seats."

Christopher Murphy, director of communications for the school's parent company, Concept Schools, said the decision to request an increase in student capacity was a "natural expansion" because the school has students on its waiting list and there is room in the building without requiring any extra construction. 

"The community was really asking for it, we've got a nice wait list at our middle school levels, and we have the space for it," Murphy said. "We've got kids that want to come to our school."

The request is the second regarding new charter schools in Rogers Park.

Michigan-based KEYS Nineveh Academy Charter School submitted a letter of intent for a K-5 school in the Far North Side neighborhood for the 2018-19 school year within attendance boundaries of existing neighborhood schools including New Field Elementary.

New Field's Local School Council recently passed a resolution advocating against Chicago Math and Science Academy's expansion as well as the new KEYS school.

The group said that because charters are "privately run, but publicly financed operations," they "erode local control of public education."

Fearing that an increase in student capacity at Chicago Math and Science Academy or Rogers Park's other charter high school, an UNO location, would siphon funds away from Sullivan High School, the local high school, the New Field LSC said it would not support such an expansion. 

"The Chicago Public Schools have suffered continuous years of budget shortfalls that have resulted in the loss of funding, further limiting resources available per school," the council said.

Murphy said the school draws from students both inside and outside Rogers Park and Chicago Math and Science Academy, Sullivan and other neighborhood schools have been trying to work together to collaborate on clubs and programming as well as professional development. 

Sullivan and Chicago Math and Science Academy "are establishing a great new relationship," Murphy said. "Just to expand some of the opportunities that we do have. So we're looking to establish a nice relationship with that particular school."

Charter schools have been controversial in Rogers Park for several years, and 49th Ward voters have also demonstrated opposition to them.

Last year residents rallied for a "charter freeze" in the neighborhood that would bar new charters from opening in the future. More than 62 percent of voters called for a freeze in a non-binding referendum.

In the past two years state lawmakers have rallied alongside parents and community groups opposing more charter schools that sought to move into the neighborhood, including Noble Network of Charter Schools and Truman Middle College, an alternative high school that is part of the Youth Connection Charter School network.

Both of those schools were at different times considering the vacant St. Jerome building across from New Field Elementary, but both plans failed to come to fruition.

The new KEYS school, which will go before the Board of Education for a vote this spring, would heavily draw on students in the neighborhood who come from immigrant families, in particular those who have sought refuge in the United States. 

New Field's LSC said it understood and was sensitive to those students, but said as a diverse community with many of those types of families already enrolled in neighborhood schools, the new charter school is not needed.

"Neighborhood public schools are well equipped to meet the unique needs of immigrant and refugee students in a welcoming and inclusive environment, and have been doing so for decades," the council said. "The Local School Council of New Field Primary School opposes the placement of any additional charter schools or the expansion of existing charter schools in our community."