ROGERS PARK — A request to add 100 seats to a Rogers Park charter school over the next four years has failed to progress after Chicago Public School officials declined to recommend it to the city's Board of Education for a vote.
Chicago Math and Science Academy, a charter school at 7212 N. Clark St. in Rogers Park, serves students in grades 6 through 12 and had asked the district to add 100 seats to its 599 student capacity over a multi-year roll-out.
Last week, CPS officials held a public hearing to get feedback on requests such as CMSA's. Those requests could then be recommended to the Board of Education for a vote.
Officials with the district did not advance the request to the board to be heard at the group's regular meeting, which was held Monday.
However, Chris Murphy, a spokesman for Chicago Math and Science Academy, said he's still pushing for an expansion in the future.
Between now and the start of the next school year, Murphy said the school would re-apply for the expansion, which would add seats "wherever needed" at the school, he said.
"We're still very much encouraged and we will try and continue expansion at CMSA," Murphy said.
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 the freeze in a non-binding referendum.
Local School Councils at Sullivan High School and Gale, Kilmer, New Field, Field, and Jordan elementaries have all passed resolutions against supporting charter expansion of any kind in the neighborhood.
The group "Ya Basta, Enough Already, No to more Charter Seats in Rogers Park," which consists of Rogers Park educators, parents and LSC members, hailed the decision to pass on the charter's expansion a "victory to celebrate."
In the past two years state and federal lawmakers have also advocated alongside parents and community groups opposing more charter schools. Several lawmakers signed a letter in opposition to CMSA's request that was read aloud at the public hearing.
U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), who attended CPS schools in Rogers Park and West Ridge, co-authored a letter with Democratic state legislators Rep. Kelly Cassidy and Sen. Heather Steans that voiced "strong opposition" to the CMSA request because they believed it would "both negatively impact neighborhood schools and violate the trust of 49th Ward voters, who have clearly demonstrated" they were not in favor of charter school growth.
The lawmakers also worried about how the expansion could affect nearby Sullivan High School by "siphoning" students and public dollars and "undercutting" the progress at struggling neighborhood schools.
CMSA accepts students from around the city because it is a charter, however Murphy said "over 90 percent" of its students hail from the Rogers Park area and the school has a waitlist to get in.
Still, Murphy disagreed with the notion they are siphoning students.
"Most of those kiddos are from the Rogers Park community, but to say that Sullivan is their home school ... any family can go to one school, and we don't believe that we're siphoning students from any one area," Murphy said.
According to Murphy, CMSA's capacity for the current school year, which started two weeks ago, is already nearing 595 — although CPS lists the school's attendance at 556. The previous school year saw about 600 students, CPS data shows.
The number of students entering high school at the charter school has steadily decreased, from 125 freshman in 2014 to 86 in 2016.
At the same time, Sullivan, which was found by the district to be "underutilized" and only at 53 percent of its capacity in 2015, has seen both freshman and overall student enrollment on the rise.
Between 2014 and 2016, Sullivan's freshman class grew by 49 students, data shows, and the school saw an overall net growth of 52 students. Its estimated enrollment for the school year that starts next week is 731 — which would be an increase of more than 100 students from last year's 626.
The 2015 space use study found Sullivan's "ideal capacity" to be 1,056 students.