What’s going on with the Skinners

December 22, 2009 at 4:22 pm 14 comments

Just wondering if anyone has news on how the new Skinner split schools are working out.  I know a lot of new parents are curious about it (as am I) and CPS’ website is lacking.  If you have any experience or have heard anything, feel free to post…..

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Introducing the new admission criteria for Gifted/Classical schools Funding in CPS and pension issues

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  • 1. SkinnerNorthParent  |  December 23, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    My son began 2nd grade this year at the new Skinner North. He was at my neighborhood school last year. The principal and the teachers are all very young and enthusiastic. They welcome and encourage parental involvement. The school only goes up to 2nd grade this year so most of the classrooms are empty (there are 2 kindergarten classes, 1 1st grade class and 1 2nd grade class). Each year they will be accepting 2 kindergarten classes and the principal has made it very clear that Skinner North like Skinner West will go up to 8th grade. Despite the small size there are quiet a few after school programs to choose from (violin, chess, science, etc.). So far I’ve been pleased with the curriculum and the teachers but the amount of homework is unbelievable (we’re averaging about 2.5 hrs every night!). It has been quite an adjustment for us from his previous school. I recently spoke to a parent of another student in my son’s class. Her son had been at the original Skinner (now Skinner West) since kindegarten and she said that the amount of homework here is much more than what he was getting at Skinner. I would certainly like to hear from parents with children in other classical programs if the amount of homework is comparable.Overall Skinner North has been a positive experience and I would encourage other parents to consider it as an option.

  • 2. hopeful  |  December 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    2.5 hours a night??!!! Why? That is crazy. Why? Maybe that is an appropriate amount of homework for a high schooler, but a 2nd grader?

  • 3. Southside Classical Parent  |  December 24, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    I have a second grader and I would say the homework varies from 30 minutes to maybe 45 minutes. We do not receive homework over the weekend, which is great so I can work on other things that I think my child needs. Every now and then my son may have an hour of homework and that is because he has to study. Someone should complain to the prinicipal. That is ridiculous. However, I have heard the homework will intensify in 3rd grade.

  • 4. KCK  |  December 26, 2009 at 10:39 pm

    One of my concerns to Skinner North is the school funding, any comments?

  • 5. cpsobsessed  |  December 27, 2009 at 2:20 am

    KCK, do you mean funding from CPS (as in will the school continue to thrive?) or parental fundraising?

  • 6. KCK  |  December 28, 2009 at 11:08 am

    cpsobsessed, I mean funding from CPS as Skinner North only has a little over 100 students this year. Is it true the less students the school has, the less funding the school will get from CPS?

    A friend of mine attended Skinner North Open House earlier this month, a parent volunteer there was wondering if her little one in kindergarten been to the computer lab? The teacher said they needed some volunteers first.

  • 7. Southside Classical Parent  |  December 28, 2009 at 11:36 am

    Funding is based on the numer of students at a school. Schools get a per pupil amount for each child. The schools gets a little extra is the child has a free or reduced lunch. Smaller schools almost always have trouble with funding and it takes a lot of fundraising to make up for it. Until Skinner North fills up the school they will struggle with the school budget. Savvy parents who fundraise and volunteer will be able to weather the storm until the school is at full capacity. For instance, at my son’s school we had to cut the librarian but we have a parent who volunteers everyday for several hours so the children can have library. The principal even had the head librarian from central office meet with her to show her how to close the library at the end of the year and give age appropriate lessons for the children. We let the librarian position go because we felt it was better to have a fulltime writing/computer tech. I hope this information helps the parents at Skinner North tough it out because I believe we need more Classical schools.

  • 8. cpsobsessed  |  December 29, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    KCK – ah yes… that does make sense. Yes, the funding per school IS based on the number of students. And even worse, there are cutoffs (that are pretty high) for getting things like gym teachers, librarians, etc funded. So does that mean that a new school like Skinner has to wait a few years to reach the levels needed to get these “extras?”
    Extra (or “discretionary”) funding is also determined by the number of low income kids in the school. Deacatur, which is pretty decently balanced on race, has only 15% low income kids and thus gets little extra funding to help run the school. I suspect Skinner could be in the same boat (although with the new 4-socio-economic-group plan, that may change.)

  • 9. dazedandconfused  |  December 29, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    i haven’t read everyone’s comments [although generally i scour this website i’ve been busy lately :)]
    but wanted to weigh in on SKinner West. I live on the north side and was reluctant to commute my kindergartener all the way downtown since we fell outside the busing. but in the end i felt like i needed to give my daughter a more rigorous program than i knew my local school provided [although the local school is one of the best]. Academically i am extremely impressed with the caliber of kids, the teacher and pricipal. I had some major issues in the beginning [security issues being number one]. I can’t say the parent participation is as much as i expected which is disappointing. I think largely it’s because we are all coming from far and wide, some busing, some aftercare, some parent commuting it’s been difficult to feel like a community. The school is gorgeous with some odd kinks [like no PA system installed in the “gymnatorium”??] but the prinicipal is a dynamic woman that wants to really make this school amazing. as for home work? i think we have maybe 20 mins on a “bad” day but i also know some kids have more or it may take longer. skinner west has 2 advanced classes and within those two classes they tested the kids in math and reading at the beginning and broke them into 4 smaller groups. i like that they differentiate since kids can be so varied at this age.
    recess is an issue [there is technically a recess] and my daughter rarely finished her lunch since that’s when she gets to socialize. i’ve volunteered several times in the classroom and there definitely is alot of learning going on 🙂 i remember the nap rugs in kindergarten…
    i’ve started meeting more parents and we all have lamented the lack of community and are trying to figure out ways to make this better and to raise more money for the school.

  • 10. dazedandconfused  |  December 29, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    just skimmed above-
    as for the “extras”
    skinner west has a gorgeous library with all brand new books and the kids go to library once a week. they have gym twice a week with two gym teachers, my daughter takes chinese [spanish also offered] and has music and art.

  • 11. M Welch  |  January 4, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Dear Dazed and Confused:

    Re your concern about building community: Try establishing a yahoogroup for parents. Membership would of course be voluntary. This has worked at other gifted/classical schools where the families come from all over the city. You can swap info about homework, set up group playdates etc. The school cannot sponsor this, but can’t stop you from doing it either. It has to be totally parent initiated and managed. Stand around with a sign up sheet at pick up and get interested parents’ email addresses, then go to www. yahoogroups.com.

  • 12. KCK  |  January 5, 2010 at 1:38 am

    dazedandconfused, do you know f your daughter is learning simplified Chinese or tradition Chinese?

  • 13. dazedandconfused  |  January 5, 2010 at 8:50 am

    thanks M Welch- one of the parents did set up a website that hasn’t been well received and the school i think is considering approaching him to remove it because it looks school sponsored. i sent a signup sheet out for my own class and only got info on 17 of 30 kids. sigh. additionally i went to the PTO [or whatever it’s called] and LSC and again there was minimal attendence. not giving up just yet!

  • 14. dazedandconfused  |  January 9, 2010 at 11:27 am

    i have no idea but i’ll ask. i have chinese friends who say the chinese teacher is amazing [well known].

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