Barack Obama — first black commander-in-chief, adopted Chicago son, one-time boss of the mayor — will have at least one prominent public building named after him in Chicago.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel made sure of that Thursday — well before the president decides where to put his library — as Emanuel announced plans to build a selective-enrollment high school, the city’s 11th, on the North Side using $60 million in tax-increment financing money and eventually serving 1,200, giving much needed hope to parents who want their kids to have a chance at the best high school education the city has to offer.
The announcement and its proposed Near North location a stone’s throw from another academic jewel — came as a surprise that cheered many parents while disappointing others who hoped for a closer option for their children to travel to south of Roosevelt Road.
The move furthers Emanuel’s education legacy — a complicated history that includes a seven-day teacher’s strike, a record shutdown of 50 schools, slashed budgets, schools handed over to private operators, an expansion of selective enrollment high schools Jones College Prep and Payton College Prep, and now the creation of a new one on the North Side, a move sure to bolster an Emanuel goal of keeping middle-class families in the city.
Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) fears losing his middle class families to suburban Oak Lawn and Summit, so he’s been asking for a selective-enrollment high school on the Southwest Side where there are none.
“For whatever reason, parents of 8th grade students don’t feel like there’s enough options, quality options, and therefore are putting a for sale sign in the ground and looking to the suburbs,” said Quinn, who testified before the Board of Education in March, citing lengthy commutes of up to one hour and 43 minutes each way form his ward office at 65th and Pulaski to most of the schools where students must test in.
Tim Nowaczyk’s son was accepted into Westinghouse College Prep and Lane Tech High School, said the father and LSC member at Nathan Hale Elementary school.
“He ultimately wasn’t able to attend because of the distance of where we live,” Nowaczyk, who lives in the Clearing community on the Southwest Side, said. “It was very disappointing. He did end up going to an [International Baccalaureate] program at Curie so that was a little closer to home.”
“I would love to see a selective enrollment school on the Southwest Side. It makes sense. Why is everything always on the North Side?”