Pay attention to South Loop schools

Letter to the editor

07/11/2012 10:00 PM

4 Comments - Add Your Comment

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 anyoneís mouth water. I would list all of these in this blog post, but I wonít. 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 Womenís Park. We also tend to a fantastic community garden plot (donít touch the tomatoes!). Itís natural for Lily to begin playing with other kids. Instead of the Ďhow old is your kidí pleasantries, I am often asked about school, namely, which private school Iíll be sending our 2.5-year-old. This exchange was also common in Lilyís 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 letís 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. Thatís right. The rock band Cheap Trick is building a cool entertainment venue a stoneís throw from my house. Oh, and letís not forget about the brewery.

I can tell you first hand that parents donít understand why the old Jones College Prep wonít 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 Ďwhere should they goí?

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 Teacherís 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 Ö 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 theyíve been helping rebuild alongside the long term residents, people that frequent local businesses and are the first to promote the neighborhood to other Chicagoans.

Iím 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 isnít 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 Iíll 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.

Blagica Bottigliero
South Loop

This letter has been reprinted with permission from Blagica Bottiglieroís personal blog,

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By Public School Family from South Loop
Posted: 07/24/2012 10:09 AM

Access to a building does not guarantee a quality education. For real change in the CPS system, we can't be passive consumers. Whether it's creating a new program (HS at Jones), working to turnaround a struggling one (NTA), or sustaining a successful one (South Loop), we must actively engage in, support, and commit to these programs. It's not an easy or quick process, but the first step is sending our kids to these schools and working intensely as a community to make them the best they can be.

By Sam from Chicago
Posted: 07/23/2012 8:39 AM

It better not be NTA. Below average scores? You're not comparing the same group of students. NTA has several Nationally Board Certified teachers. Most of the teachers have master degrees. It is a committed group if professionals that work hard with it's students. There is always talk of pushing out the students to make room for the rich, white kids. Instead, why not join forces with NTA and make it a diverse school? Check out these sites to see that NTA isn't your ordinary school.

By John from University Village
Posted: 07/13/2012 9:07 AM

This is what I don't get. One big argument to spend over $100 mill (much of it TIF) on the new Jones bldg was the old Jones was, well old, too small, in need of many things, without some basic things that HS's need -- and so now the bldg is just fine? Because so much TIF money was used, there's going to be a neighborhood, lottery based accommodation within the new Jones. That's what spending the TIF $ got the people of the area. Blame the SL leadership who didn't think this whole thing thru.

By South Loop Neighbor from Chinatown
Posted: 07/12/2012 10:22 PM

As a resident of the neighboring Chinatown, we are so exciting to see the growth happening in the South Loop! The Greater Chinatown area has experienced a 40% growth since the 2000 Census and there is a HUGE need for a neighborhood high school and further elementary support - Students are commuting at 5am just to get to class! Isn't it OBVIOUS there needs to be GREATER Support for the NEIGHBORHOOD we live in & not push us out further out & away~