Downtown deserves better schools
06/20/2012 10:00 PM
Weíre happy to see a school finally going into New Eastside, a community that has sprouted up quickly just northeast of downtown.
For years, plans have called for a new school there to support the rapidly expanding number of young families calling the area that used to be a decrepit Illinois Central rail yard home.
We have every expectation that the new GEMS World Academy thatís moving in there will be a fine institution, and with a strong contingent of embassies nearby, its international focus will likely go over well.
But the fact that itíll be a private school ó and likely a very expensive one, at that ó just reinforces the fact that residents living downtown donít have many options when it comes to schooling their kids.
Do you know what the local high school is for students living in New Eastside? Itís Wells Community Academy High School, all the way out in East Ukrainian Village. Itís also on academic probation.
The time has come for Chicago Public Schools officials to focus on creating new schools for families living in downtown Chicago. This is a class of students and parents that, if treated well, will buoy the city as it moves forward.
To be sure, there are other schools all around the city that need help, including many in poor neighborhoods. Those schools should not be cast aside ó they need all the help they can get.
But we cannot ignore the problems of one class of people in the city at the expense of another. The solving riddle of public education in this city requires a two-pronged attack.
So, there needs to be a new approach to education, particularly downtown. There are hundreds of families who would send their kids to quality public schools if the opportunity presented itself. Letís create a place to send them.
This could be in the form of a new public high school in the old Jones College Prep building, a structure that the city is planning on tearing down but advocates including Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) are pushing to repurpose.
Weíre not totally sold on the idea of saving it, mainly because the idea of having two separate schools right next to each other ó one the privileged selective enrollment kids in the shiny new building, another the regular old neighborhood group in a decades-old space. Thatís not a formula for long-term success.
But itís a facility sitting ready to be used. And itís a need that must be met. Itís a start.