Pay attention to South Loop schools
Letter to the editor
07/11/2012 10:00 PM
It happens about once or twice a week: someone in my South Loop neighborhood is helping a stranger with directions to the Soldier Field bridge, parking tips for Grant Park activities or delicious eats south of Roosevelt. We do this without question. We love the South Loop. What may appear as large concrete slabs to the passersby, we know there are crevices of communities and parks that would make anyone’s mouth water. I would list all of these in this blog post, but I won’t. The purpose of this post is to focus on an increasing trend among parents we run into every single day: the talk of moving.
Our little one spends a lot of time in the Women’s Park. We also tend to a fantastic community garden plot (don’t touch the tomatoes!). It’s natural for Lily to begin playing with other kids. Instead of the ‘how old is your kid’ pleasantries, I am often asked about school, namely, which private school I’ll be sending our 2.5-year-old. This exchange was also common in Lily’s music class, grocery shopping trips and random conversations in local parks. I wrote about this dilemma before, but it seems to be getting worse.
Parents south of the South Loop School cutoff are, in a nutshell, beside themselves with deciding on where to send their tots to school. OK, I know this is a CITYWIDE thing, but let’s be real here. We have a community of established residents sharing barbeques with parents of toddlers and, potentially, FUTURE community leaders of the city. What was once deemed a place to get rid of, the South Loop continues to bloom with new restaurants and a soon-to-be Cheap Trick resident. That’s right. The rock band Cheap Trick is building a cool entertainment venue a stone’s throw from my house. Oh, and let’s not forget about the brewery.
I can tell you first hand that parents don’t understand why the old Jones College Prep won’t be turned into a public high school. I can tell you first hand that upwardly mobile parents are going out of their way to drive their kids to private schools on the north side or Hyde Park. Families are slowly beginning to tell stories of larger yards and easy-to-walk-to public schools, eliminating the struggle many of us face with ‘where should they go’?
Parents feel this way because they absolutely love where they live. From the lovely outdoor cafe of Cafe Society to the endless parks and easy access to the Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute or Planetarium, South Loopers relish in the fact that we can share these treats with our kids and out of town families. We are willing to give up some space to live in the middle of diversity, with close access to our jobs in the Loop.
Yet, here we are. Overcrowding at South Loop School, below average scores for the National Teacher’s Academy and the possibility of a building being demolished to even up a road?
At the same time, you have at least 122 families that are members of the South Loop Moms & Tots Group … and that is only a fraction of the larger kiddo population in the area. The same population that is on the cusp of leaving an area they’ve been helping rebuild alongside the long term residents, people that frequent local businesses and are the first to promote the neighborhood to other Chicagoans.
I’m a public school-raised kid from kindergarten all through college. Mr. Mayor, you have the right and the option to financially send your kids to the Lab School. This isn’t for my family, nor is it for the countless families who want to continue building their lives in the South Loop.
So, I continue our family weekend trips to every nearby suburb in the area. I update my notes, my spreadsheets and keep tabs on where else we would live. And I’ll continue to dream of those days in Warren, Mich., the days when I would walk 16 houses to school and sometimes make it home for lunch.
This letter has been reprinted with permission from Blagica Bottigliero’s personal blog, blagica.com.