South Loop community interested in using Jones building for a new High School (guest post)

July 27, 2012 at 9:33 am 82 comments

Here’s a guest post from HSObsessed, who btw, has a child in 8th grade this year, and if we butter her up, will hopefully keep us posted of their search process.

I learned on Alderman Bob Fioretti’s Twitter feed that there’s a new group in the south Loop working to try to establish a new neighborhood high school for kids living in and near the south Loop, to be housed in the current Jones College Prep building. JCP is getting a new facility nearby, which will be completed and ready for that school’s selectively enrolled freshmen in fall 2013.

The “Reuse Jones” group seems to have Ald. Fioretti’s support and they print his letter to Mayor Emanuel on their website

The website contains a few links to articles but doesn’t have a good statement of purpose of exactly what they want and why. From what I can surmise, they believe that there are enough families in the south and west Loop who would like to send their kids to CPS high schools, but they’re not thrilled with the current options of Phillips and Crane.

Here’s a link to the maps showing the boundaries of the neighborhood high schools that serve the Loop area currently, one for Streeterville. (Red schools are neighborhood schools; all the blue schools are high schools that have enrollment by application, lottery, etc.)

It looks like like Phillips is the neighborhood high school for nearly all the Loop south and east of the Chicago River, with a huge boundary, some of which goes all the way down to 59th Street. Phillips can hold up to 2100 students but only has 663 enrolled, with 91% low income. The average ACT score is 13.4. Only 2.5% of graduates are considered eligible to enroll in selective colleges. (This is determined by a metric using each student’s GPA combined with their ACT. If a student has a 3.0 GPA and scores 18 or higher on the ACT, they are considered eligible to enroll in a selective college, so in my opinion, the bar is set pretty low.)

Crane is the neighborhood high school for those in the west loop, west of the Chicago River, between 1800 south and Kinzie on the north. Crane was going to be shut down by CPS earlier this year but community members rallied to keep it open, and it will now be a health sciences high school. It has space for up to 2300 students with 2000 ideal, but currently enrolls 638 students, 94% low income. They post a 14.0 average ACT score, and 3.7% of graduates are considered eligible for selective colleges.

Since we’re looking at the Loop area, Wells is the high school for the “new East Side”, which is northeast of Michigan and Randolph, as well as for kids in Streeterville and RIver North. Wells ideally enrolls 1400 but has 630 students, 94% low income, posting average ACTs of 14.9, and 7.2% are eligible for selective colleges.

So what do you think about the group’s argument that a new neighborhood high school is needed in the Loop? None of the existing nabe high schools is doing spectacular in terms of test scores, but they’re likely enrolling kids from lower performing K-8 schools. Those “college eligible” scores are pretty dismal. (To give you a comparison, 36.6% of Lake View High School’s graduates are considered to be college eligible.) None of the existing high schools are very close to the Loop itself, with Phillips in particular at 3900 south, meaning a potential commute of more than five miles for a kid to get to his “neighborhood” high school.

However, I’m wondering whether there truly enough kids currently in 7th/6th grade who not only live in the theoretical boundaries of this new school, but who would in 2-3 years actually attend it. It’s one thing to “think” your kid will go to a certain school, but then another reality to turn down an offer from a more-established school and commit to the new school. Given the very, very low usage rates of the current high schools, I’m sure CPS is loathe to pay for yet another set of salaries for a principal, AVP, teachers, etc. in addition to the various operational costs of the facility. I think the SaveJones group will have to come up with hard demographic data about where current high schoolers within the boundary attend to convince CPS.

Entry filed under: High school.

South Loop RGC Update – New RGC Opening? Groupon: $11 buys a CPS student a year of school supplies

82 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HS Mom  |  July 27, 2012 at 10:27 am

    I think a high school in the Jones building could bring positive outcomes from the standpoint that it is small (approx 800) and surrounded by an academic culture. Good opportunity to build a neighborhood school from scratch and manage the difficulties involved.

    The building would need to be reworked to incorporate a gym, if possible.

    The current plan called for a neighborhood program within Jones once the new building was in place. Maybe an opportunity for more SE seats.

    I don’t think they’d have any problem filling seats. Location is fabulous.

  • 2. RL Julia  |  July 27, 2012 at 11:30 am

    Apparently the problem isn’t that the area lacks high schools or facilities – its more of a p.r. problem – the area lacks a non-test in high school that anyone wants to commit to. From what I hear, Wells has a fantastic administration – in terms of a good prinicipal and assistant principals- its just that they are not getting high performing kids – who all run to Lincoln Park, Noble Street Charters, Jones, Payton, Westinghouse, Whitney, Ogden and Lane if they can. Ditto Clemente (and probably Crane and Phillips). I personally don’t think there is need for a NEW high school in the neighborhood per se – especially given all the schools located in area and that they are all currently under-enrolled. The best strategy would be to pick one to turn around. Weren’t there rumors that Clemente was going to go IB? Also given Jones’s centralized location – it would not be “neighborhood” school for long and thus it wouldn’t really solve the problem of having a neighborhood school. I personally vote Wells because I think it has the infrastructure, its in a decent neighborhood and relatively accessible by public transportation.

  • 3. Lakeshore East Dad  |  July 27, 2012 at 11:50 am

    A note on the new east side: The are northeast of Michigan and Randolph is in Ogden’s district. Same holds true for the Streeterville area north of us. The area switched from Wells to Ogden once they opened the new high school.

  • 4. HSObsessed  |  July 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Thanks for the correction, LS E Dad. That’s not updated yet on the map, or it’s not clear. Or maybe Wells remains the neighborhood high school for the New Eastside/Streeterville area, but kids in a certain boundary are guaranteed to get in to Ogden HS? That’s how it is for Alcott HS; within a certain boundary, the nabe HS is Lincoln but they can choose to go to Alcott as well.

    RL Julia, what do you mean that it wouldn’t remain the “neighborhood school” for long? So you feel there would be plenty of in-boundary kids to fill the school and it would soon overflow?

  • 5. cpsobsessed  |  July 27, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    I don’t think neighborhood kids have a set spot at Alcott. Kids from Alcott elem do and neighborhood kids go into their own lottery. So they have a better chance than the general population, but not guaranteed.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 6. Mayfair Dad  |  July 27, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    It is not a lack of capacity problem – it is a lack of quality problem. Now the gentrified crowd wants their own high school building so Buffy and Jody can matriculate with their own kind. High poverty = high crime + low achievement. The P in CPS stands for public – doesn’t diversity include poor kids, too? Embrace diversity or send your kidlets to St. Ignacius. You also have Whitney Young and Westinghouse nearby, in addition to Jones.

    What if they turned Old Jones into a charter high school – still interested?

    The rumor I’m hearing is that Old Jones will become an Academic Center feeding into the new Jones College Prep (just like Young, Taft, Lane, etc.) This makes the most sense to me.

  • 7. RL Julia  |  July 27, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Interesting rumor Mayfair dad – except -unless the new Jones is significantly bigger, I think it would be hard to do an AC for Jones – the incoming class size is simply too small to tie up half or more of the spaces with AC kids -which are typically 120-140 kids per grade. I also think there might be some backlash about an(other) AC tying up even more SEHS slots for northsider kids.

    HSObsessed – Having the old Jones building become a “neighborhood” school wouldn’t last long for exactly the sentiments that Mayfair Dad expressed – the real motivation of starting the neighborhood Jones is to insure that there are not too many of the lower scoring ruffian kids there (which is why Clemente etc… are currently unappealling/”not an option” schools). However a neighborhood school has to take those kids as well -the parents who are going to try and set this school up will eventually realize this and also realize that to make it an appealling school for their kids and any higher scoring kids that they want to attract, there needs to be a catch – IB/Alternative/Fine Arts/STEM whatever or else every kid who can get into the ten or so test-in high schools in the neighborhood are still going to go there because of the name value/cache/proven track record etc… I think that a “take back X HS” would work much better. Ultimately if I read it correctly, the parents who want to start another Jones are going to have to have some sort of competitive test-in option if they want to maintain the kind of ratio of students that they want. That’s what I meant when I said that the Jones model wouldn’t be a neighborhood school for long.

    I am not sure about the in-boundary part – I don’t think that there are too many kids – from what you said, it seems like all of the neighborhood high schools are underenrolled. Perhaps I mistyped something – happens pretty often.

  • 8. HSObsessed  |  July 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    @CPSO, yes to clarify about Alcott: All Alcott ES 8th graders are admitted to Alcott HS if they wish to enroll. Then there is a lottery for any “neighborhood” applicants who live between North Ave and Belmont, Lake Michigan and Western. Then there is a citywide lottery.

  • 9. Frango Mint  |  July 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    The neighborhood program at Skinner West is busting at the seams. A decent public high school in the area would be nice – whether it is CPS or a charter. How about putting in a neighborhood program at Whitney? 😉

    No, Mayfair Dad, embracing diversity doesn’t mean you have to send your kid to a scary high school. There are plenty of extremely diverse high quality CPS schools that serve children of all races and economic classes – they are just really hard to get into. This business with “Buffy and Jody” is an insulting generalization of people living in the loop. It is not the case that the only people living down there are wealthy and white. The neighborhood classes at Skinner are incredibly and beautifully diverse.

  • 10. SoxSideIrish4  |  July 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    I think the old Jones school could be a very viable option for that area~for the kids who don’t get into SEHS. I think there will be a need for it and starting w/a clean slate is what a lot of the ppl in that area are looking for. It’s nice to have a n’hood school that one likes. I don’t like our n’hood HS so my youngest son will go to St. Ignacius.

  • 11. EastLoopMom  |  July 28, 2012 at 7:15 am

    @3 Lakeshore East Dad

    Regarding the high school situation for the New East Side and Streeterville, I attended an Ogden Elementary open house last fall. At that time, Principal Staral explained that simply living in the boundary was not enough to guarantee entry to the Ogden High School. Only students that had gone through the IB program at Ogden Elementary were automatically admitted. My memory is a bit fuzzy here, but I believe he said that students living south of Chicago Ave had Wells as their neighborhood high school and those living north had Lincoln Park HS. I just typed my New East Side address into the CPS school locator and it does list Wells as our neighborhood HS. I also believe that there are additional points added in the application process for the IB program for 6th(?) grade if you live within the Ogden boundary.

    Can anyone correct or clarify?

  • 12. HSObsessed  |  July 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    @11, the north/south boundary for Wells v. LPHS through the Streeterville/River North area is Oak St.

  • 13. Skinner MOM  |  July 28, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    I am smack dab in west loop. My children go to Skinner West in the neighborhood program. Even in this program there is trouble. If anyone remenbers when the neighborhood option first came ava. only (excuse me if this offends but it is true) only one group made use of it-poor/minority who lived in the neighborhood (AKA-Me!!) Now the neighborhood option is valued/prized and bursting at the seems and parents are fighting each other for space. In June A group of parents demanded that the principal investigate all addresses of neighborhood kids. They even offered to pay-no joke!! Disgusted!!!

  • 14. Skinner MOM  |  July 28, 2012 at 7:57 pm

    Neighborhood parents who want the Jones building need to SUCK it up at Wells HS or wherever else and make that school good-if not great. The solution is not to exclude, but include. Wells HS- is not dangerous. That is a lie. People need to be honest- they (parents)just don’t like the clientele- the same was the case originally in the Skinner West neighborhood program. Yes the scores are low–well send your “genius” kids there and scores will go up, get involved-demade AP classes, etc. A school is as good as parents invest and make it out to be. My Skinner kids will attend Wells HS and I will work with the teachers to make sure that they get a world class education-the right stuff is already there. People just dont see beyond what they want to see.

  • 15. TeachintheChi  |  July 29, 2012 at 8:14 am

    But lets be real – and I agree with Mayfair Dad here. It is about gentrification and pushing out – regardless of how you want to look at. Take a long hard look at the history of South Loop Elementary, and you will see a history of exclusion and “new boundries”. As soon as I saw the title of this post I laughed and thought – now all those South Loop parents who felt entitled to their own elementary school are working towards their own high school.

    Its not stereotyping a group of people – this has been the history of the parents in this neighborhood.

  • 16. RL Julia  |  July 29, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I’m with you Skinner Mom. On the other hand, it will be interesting to see if this particular parent group has enough clout/money to convince this particular CPS administration otherwise. Given how cash strapped the system is, they might have more success just starting their own private high school.

  • 17. been there done that  |  July 29, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I pass by Wells and Clemente HS every day on my way to my daughters school. Police SUV’s are stationed there all day. Have you been there when school lets out in the afternoon? It gets a little crazy to say the least. I also live near Crane which has the police stationed- is not an option. I was there the day a student got shot in front of the school.
    I am a parent that does her research and I am sorry to say these are not options. They are not safe schools.
    What I do find interesting is that Phoenix Military Academy, Bulls Charter and UIC Noble High Schools do not have Police swarming the area when school lets out. No police presence in front of the schools. Kids are mostly well behaved when they leave school at the end of the day. For me that is sign that possilby these are better alternatives for the Near South Side/ Near West side High school families. Also CHI ARTS is taking over the soon to be old Malcom X college building, not sure of the date but it is in the works!
    I heard that the parents that got STEM going in University Village/Little Italy are trying to get a High School for that area. I say more power to them.The more the merrier. If you have the HUEVOS to start a movement to make a better High School go for it. No more sour grapes over South Loop. Let’s just move forward! I have got 5 years till my child is in High School and I want the best for her. We are in a good cps elementary school that serves all races and ethnicity.,,,and it is a safe school.
    It is sad when we have to think about what HIgh School can I send my child to where she will not witness intimidation, stabbing, beating or a shooting and at the very worst be a victim of one of these crimes. These are real things that happen in the above mentioned schools.

  • 18. Tchr  |  July 29, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    So what is it about those schools that make them safe or unsafe? The building itself? Maybe students from the unsafe schools should rush out to the safe schools. Their lives are important too, right?

  • 19. been there done that  |  July 29, 2012 at 9:05 pm

    The schools are not safe because of the cross section of gangs that are in these schools.. Yes their are many law abiding kids that go to these schools and I feel for them but I would not want my child to be caught in the middle of a fight or something worse. All lives are important, I am not sure what you are getting at?

  • 20. RL Julia  |  July 30, 2012 at 9:01 am

    Actually, there hasn’t been a crime reported at Wells since 2006 (Unlike say, Lincoln Park). Lots of schools have police around when students are dismissed. I think that people would find Wells an unacceptable choice because it has other problems – like having a disproportionate number of poor students – who according to this report are not well immunized ( On the plus side, it does offer seven AP level classes. Like many other schools in the CPS system – Wells is not an attractive choice to many parents not because it has bad infrastructure but because it is full of poor kids – whose need for a variety of services will most certainly take precedence over whatever services a not so poor kid might need. On the other hand, given the fact that it does have a decent infrastructure and a good location, it is a school that could be turned around by a committed parent community if someone wanted to step up. I am sure that a motivated student could receive a good education at Wells that would adequately prepare them for college level work. However, that being said, its strengths and services are no doubt more focused at providing different sorts of services than an SEHS school or even a neighborhood high school with a less impoverished student body would.

  • 21. anonymouse teacher  |  July 30, 2012 at 10:15 am

    The Wells HS principal would literally lay down his life for his students. If I were a high school teacher, I’d be begging to work for him. Matias demonstrates and lives out love in a way that is rare and amazing.

  • 22. been there done that  |  July 30, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    I have heard wonderful things about the principal at Wells. I love the teaching program they offer too. That being said I feel that the school a problem population and I would not take a chance with my child. It is hard enough just living on the West Side with shootings just down the street and on the next block. I need to give my child an alternative to the grind and noise of the city. I am not sure if their really is that place but I am going to look really really hard!
    Many of the teenagers in my area go to Wells, Clemente and Crane. They live hard and play hard, it seems like their lives are just plain hard all around. I want something different for my child. Good to hear great things about a HIgh School principal. It makes me feel better that a Mr. Matias is out there 🙂

  • 23. anonymouse teacher  |  July 30, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    Oh, I wouldn’t send my kid to Wells either. I guess I am more saying this because I believe so much in his commitment to those children. If he can’t do it, believe me, nobody can. He’s in the business of changing lives and that is something hard to measure. He grew up the way his students did and he knows what it is like to live that kind of life. Anyway, my intention isn’t to shame anyone into looking into a particular high school. I just love the man–he’s a hero of mine. I can’t think of Wells without thinking about how he loves students. They make movies about people like him.

  • 24. Jeff Scurry  |  July 31, 2012 at 8:50 am

    To make this work the group is going to need to get actual committments from actual families that will committ to sending their kids to the school. Nothing else will get this done. Please don\’t waste your time doing anything else. Figure out what you want, how many kids it can hold and then go find the South Loop families to fill it. Do not just keep saying you have the numbers. SHOW THAT YOU HAVE THE NUMBERS.

    Not sure why people talk about safety so much. Who, if they didn\’t have to, would send their kids to those schools even if they were on a list of safest schools in America? Academically they are non starters. Not sure why people waste time with these other things/code words. They are terrible schools, fulll stop.

    Good luck!

  • 25. RL Julia  |  July 31, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Jeff- when people talk about “safety” they really mean poor. People generally don’t want their kids going to schools predominantly filled with kids poorer then their kids. I am not completely sure, but I sometimes suspect that sometimes “safety” might also mean not white but I think poor is what they are talking about more frequently.

    On the other hand – as you sort of pointed about in your comment about some schools being non-starters – I am not sure if this group has the numbers to send kids to such a school. In general, people are much more comfortable proposing something new than turning around something that already exists. I believe there are at least two reasons for this:
    1. Something new gives the group the idea that they are going to have major amounts of control in determining what the new thing looks like – which means that they can unapologetically tailor it to what they feel their individual child should get/needs.

    2. Creating something new negates the need to negotiate with an existing community who might not want the existing structure of the school to change or who feel threatened by change. Since the people working for change are usually richer, there inevitably is a cry about gentrification and the poorer population being pushed out or disrespected.

  • 26. Mayfair Dad  |  July 31, 2012 at 9:41 am

    A little off-topic, but while we’re talking about high schools:,0,7654945.story

  • 27. klm  |  July 31, 2012 at 10:39 am



    I sometimes wonder why so many people talk like it’s just normal (for a middle-class person, anyway) to even consider neighborhood schools like the ones discussed above: ones with not just “below suburban” standards, but ones where virtually nobody is achieving anywhere near where they should be just to do OK in life. I mean, we’re talking prime examples of the crisis in urban American public education, ground-zero for the achievement gap (where on average for the country as a whole A-A 12th graders are scoring no higher than white and asian kids in 8th grade, and Latino students not much better). At these schools, I bet the average kids that even make it to 12th grade are not doing what average kids in the North Shore are doing in 6th grade. We’re talking really, really horrible learning environments, here.

    And isn’t education supposed to be about LEARNING?

    And yes, safety is a genuine issue, not some largely baseless fear born of prejudice and misconceptions. People that live in Chicago see what’s going on in their city and neighborhoods. Are we really supposed to believe that these HSs are magically immune to what we see, hear and read about?

    I guess that’s why some parents want to try something “new”, as in “anywhere but THAT place!” Virtually anything would be better than the current neighborhood options.

    I’d be all for a public charter school HS (yes, open to all) like the BASIS ones in Arizona (among the best public HSs in the country, but very rigorous and attractive to only students that really want to work hard and learn) or the one(s) that are starting in NYC run by a Swedish company with a good track record (both in Sweden and the UK and now NYC),…but that will never happen in Chicago.

    It’s funny how all families in supposedly “socialist” Sweden have the option of leaving their local public school “monopoly” if they want (with the public school funds that go with it) to attend schools (open to all) run by a for-profit private company, but here in Chicago we’re still debating whether people should have even CPS Charter school options, despite the fact that for too many families their public school choices are beyond horrible and almost criminal in their debilitating effects on kids’ futures. But, oh yeah! We just need to “improve” neighborhood schools ( —blah, blah, blah,…decade after decade, generation after generation of inner-city kids are left largely ill-prepared to compete in a post-industrial economy).

    Nothing will ever change for kids that need change the most if the “culture” (at home, from adults, peers, ‘communty leaders’, civil rights groups, …etc.) surrounding education tells them that the education at Crane, Wells, etc. is “just fine”, and if only there weren’t so many “outsiders” telling then that theirs is not a “good” school all would be OK and that any problems that do exist are only because of lack of funding and bias from people from outside the ‘hood that don’t understand us.

  • 28. IBobsessed  |  July 31, 2012 at 11:12 am

    RL Julia, sorry but you have way overstated. Most of the people you are talking about moved to the suburbs years ago. I really mean ‘safe’ and ‘offers strong academics’.

  • 29. IBobsessed  |  July 31, 2012 at 11:14 am

    MF Dad, not surprised about the Charter at Scholastica. Now I don’t have to eat my hat-no new northside Catholic HS.

  • 30. RL Julia  |  July 31, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    IBObsessed can you give me an example of such a neighborhood school in Chicago that has a poverty rate of over 85% (which is what is the norm for CPS)?

  • 31. SutherlandParent  |  July 31, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    The discussion over Wells and Crane is striking similar tones to a thread earlier this year about Morgan Park HS. And at least based on the attendance of the 8th graders at my neighborhood elem. school who graduated this year, the Ag School is becoming the 19th Ward’s new “neighborhood” high school, rather than MPHS. I wish I had answers on how to shore up our existing neighborhood high schools instead of constantly rolling out new options…

  • 32. been there done that  |  July 31, 2012 at 2:42 pm

    Sorry to burst your bubble but when I say safety I mean safety! I send my child to a school that has 60 percent poverty and before that she was at a school that I loved that was 80% poverty. Both schools present and previous are not stellar schools but my daughter has done very well in past and present schools. If your child shows the desire to learn they will learn. The climate has to be right. If fights and police are present at the schools then that is not for us. Yes if I could walk my daughter to Crane I would if I thought she would be safe.
    The elementary school down the street from me is an ok school but I cant send my daughter there when I find that a girl got assaulted and student brought in a hand gun. It is ALL about safety.


  • 33. been there done that  |  July 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    @27 Kim
    Love your comments!

  • 34. James  |  July 31, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    @27 klm, @28IBobsessed, and @32 been there done that —

    Before someone repeats yet again that you don’t really mean what you’re saying and that when you say “safety,” what you are really voicing is your secret dislike of poor people or non-white people, I just wanted to say that I agree with you completely. As a matter of objective fact, Wells is a school with genuine safety and gang issues and it has an average ACT score of less than 15. So, unlike some on this board, I believe you when you say that “safety” means “safety” and that “strong academics” means “strong academics.” It’d be great if Wells could be turned around. I wish I knew how to do it, but I don’t. What I do know is that trying to shame folks for not sending their kids there (while you send your child to Northside this fall) and saying “it’s safe and good enough for the likes of you, so get over it” isn’t the way to go.

  • 35. Tchr  |  July 31, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    What I am saying/ asking is: what is the problem with these schools? Why is there a safety problem? Why is there a gang problem? Why are their test scores so low?

    It is a sociological problem. A cyclical poverty problem, not just an education problem. Schools can be turned around without CPS or AUSL kicking everyone to the curb. It takes strong leaders and not just teachers. It takes investment in those wrap around services the CTU wants for students and FAMILIES. It’s giving students that have never seen anything different something different. The principal and teachers of Wells cannot do it themselves. And when good parents, families, students, and community pull away, it leaves little hope. If and when the village steps up, something can happen.

    Why did schools do away with tracking and having all the Blue Birds in one reading group all day and the Red Birds by themselves all day? Why do we push for inclusion and differentiation when possible?

    When did separate but “equal” become ok again?

    A few years ago there was serious talk and plans in writing that South Loop would take over part of NTA. South Loop students would have their own separate entrance, separate education, separate specials teachers while NTA students did not have an art teacher. Did they need their own separate drinking fountains and bathrooms too?

    If it is good enough for your kids, it is good enough for all kids. And if it is happening for your it should be happening for all kids. If the safety at Wells isn’t safe enough for your kids, how do we make it safe for the kids at Wells?

  • 36. RL Julia  |  July 31, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    Tchr – thank you. That is exactly what I mean.

    James – I am not saying that people should send their kids to Wells – what I am saying is that they shouldn’t expect CPS to open another neighborhood high school because Wells is broken and they don’t want to send their kids there. I actually think more like klm does on this matter – as in WHY isn’t every CPS high school a viable option? However, the pragmatist in me knows that CPS isn’t going to open something based on the comments of one segment of the population. Don’t necessarily agree with their decisions butthat’s my prediction. I have no idea where you get the idea that I “shaming” anyone – as if one post would really make a difference. Thanks for the compliment though.

    Been there done that – All I meant with my comments is that many, many CPS high schools have the police present pretty much all the times – and I have learned from other posters on other parts of this website that it doesn’t mean that there is a problem -necessarily. I wasn’t able to find anything about there being violence at Wells -but obviously you know more than I do on this matter.

  • 37. James  |  July 31, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    @36 RL Julia —

    I don’t want to go too far down this path because we did so a couple months ago about unacceptable neighborhood high schools on the north side, and it wasn’t productive. So maybe you weren’t trying to “shame” parents when they said they wouldn’t send their kids to Wells because of safety and academic concerns. Maybe that was a bad word choice.

    What you did do, however, is assert as fact that all Wells needs to be completely turned around are some parents who care and were willing to work — “it is a school that could be turned around by a committed parent community if someone wanted to step up.” Then, after some posters noted that they’d “step up,” but that there are some real safety concerns about that school, you dismissed their concerns out of hand. According to you, such concerns are grossly exaggerated (apparently because you think it’s perfectly OK to have an intimidating police presence outside the school every day and you didn’t find reports in the Trib of fatal violence at the school). Or, worse, you said such concerns were just a proxy for classism or racism — “when people talk about ‘safety’ they really mean poor. . . . I am not completely sure, but I sometimes suspect that sometimes ‘safety’ might also mean not white.” According to you, Wells is just a few good parents away from being a great school, but, unfortunately, it’s saddled with a bunch of classist and racist parents who try to hide their prejudices by using bogus terms like “safety.”

    Help me out. What is the right word for this kind of argument? Insulting? Presumptuous? I’ll go with just plain wrong.

    Look, even though you aren’t sending your child to one, I do believe that you genuinely care about the plight of our neighborhood high schools. But simply pretending that there aren’t real safety and academic problems at a school like Wells, or claiming that all it needs is someone to “step up,” or asserting that parents who don’t send their kids there are just a bunch of lazy bigots who don’t like poor kids — none of that is going to change hearts and minds. And it sure isn’t going to change Wells.

  • 38. been there done that  |  July 31, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I would also like to add many of the crimes that happen in schools are not reported. Principals do not want a paper trail and teachers can actually get intimidated by a principal who does not want to shine a light on these incidences.
    One of the best teachers I have ever known wanted a parent to press charges against another child for kicking this student in the stomach. This teacher went to the principal and asked that the police be called. The principal wanted nothing to do with it and said the teacher was making to much of a fuss. Some principals do not want to deal with accident reports and police reports. That could be a reason why the “Tribune” or other did not have any such information on the violence at such schools.

  • 39. IB obsessed  |  July 31, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    I do agree with RL Julia that there ARE northside HSs that can be turned around. (I know very little about central and south side schools, so will not presume to speculate). But it’s gonna take principals and a critical mass of families committed to make academics a priority whether they are poor, rich or middle class.

  • […] South Loop community interested in using Jones building for a new High School CPSObsessed:  I learned on Alderman Bob Fioretti’s Twitter feed that there’s a new group in the south Loop working to try to establish a new neighborhood high school for kids living in and near the south Loop, to be housed in the current Jones College Prep building. JCP is getting a new facility nearby, which will be completed and ready for that school’s selectively enrolled freshmen in fall 2013. window.gallery_images = [ { src: "", caption: "" }, ]; ◄ Previous Next ► Advertisement: […]

  • 41. Mayfair Dad  |  August 1, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Did Alderman Fioretti’s twitter feed mention which charter school operator would be taking over the building?

  • 42. HSObsessed  |  August 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    @41 MFD – Fioretti’s tweet was about the Save Jones group, not about the St. Scholastica building.

  • 43. Mayfair Dad  |  August 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I was implying that if a new high school were to emerge from the old Jones building, it is likely to be a charter high school. St. Scholastica is a pertinent cautionary tale. Be careful what you wish for.

  • 44. CPS Parent  |  August 1, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    43. Mayfair Dad – I’m sure there would be plenty of parents who would wish for a charter school.

  • 45. cpsobsessed  |  August 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    I don’t consider myself pro or against charter per se (well, probably pro, but up to a certain point and with rigorous careful selection of the operators). But based on everything we’ve said about the neighborhood high school problems, which seems like a quicker “fix” – charter high schools that can “counsel out” unruly or on motivated students or overcoming that huge obstacle in the neighborhood high schools…

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 46. HSObsessed  |  August 1, 2012 at 7:43 pm

    One problem with a charter high school would be its lottery-based admissions, so it wouldn’t be guaranteed slots for the neighborhood kids.

  • 47. cpsobsessed  |  August 1, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Ah, true. I was just thinking about more charter HSs around the city…

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 48. been there done that  |  August 1, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    This group that Fioretti is talking about are the parents behind the stem school. I am glad to hear that it is not just talk anymore.
    One thing I find hard to swallow is that it will be a feeder for Jackson, STem and Skinner I dont know any school CPS school that can delegate what schools feed into it’s program. They also said that they will have a neighborhood set aside. I’m sure with my luck the boundary will be right before my block 😦

  • 49. cpsobsessed  |  August 1, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    I’m sorry – that is clearly wishful thinking. No way CPS would approve that. Well, under the old admin, it didn’t fly with Alcott. I’d have a hard time believing that could ever happen with select magnet/classical schools feeding into one school, no matter how bad parents want it.
    I totally understand their motivations, but it rubs me the wrong way.

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 50. Mayfair Dad  |  August 2, 2012 at 9:16 am

    @44: I don’t necessarily dislike charters (depends on the operator, quality varies greatly) but with their quasi-selective enrollment policies skimming the cream from local neighborhood schools, doesn’t that further erode the viability of the existing underutilized area high schools? So you end up with a couple highly regarded SE high schools, a shiny new charter high school, and a handful of failure factories filled with poor kids.

    Its great for Buffy and Jody to have a Plan B in case they don’t score the perfect 900 needed to get into Whitney Young or Jones. Especially when the real estate market is in the crapper.

  • 51. Esmom  |  August 2, 2012 at 9:21 am

    “Its great for Buffy and Jody to have a Plan B in case they don’t score the perfect 900 needed to get into Whitney Young or Jones. Especially when the real estate market is in the crapper.”

    I guess so but to expect CPS to cater to them specifically (at taxpayer expense) seems to be the ultimate in entitlement. Has anyone heard anything about any new private high schools? Just curious because from what I gather there’s quite a shortage of those in the city, too.

  • 52. cpsobsessed  |  August 2, 2012 at 9:27 am

    @MFD: that is my completely selfish POV, yes.
    As you know, I often have other POVs on the matter.
    But at times, the reality of having a safe place for my son to learn in 5 years at a grade-appropriate level, with grade appropriate-level kids, where discipline is enforced versus the reality of figuring out how to “fix” the huge dropout factories — it seems like the easier solution. Best for society? No. Best for me? Maybe.
    Yikes, I think I woke up as a Republican today!
    Obviously is STILL very much want these neighborhood high schools to work. I still have my sights set on Amundsen, esp what I’ve seen of the new principal so far, who has joined the Friends of A Facebook page and posts there regularly – eager to connect with the community, of which she is a part of. But I think that school is already well ahead of many of the worst neighborhood high schools that just seem to have no “easy fix.”

    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile

  • 53. Mayfair Dad  |  August 2, 2012 at 10:01 am

    @ 52. My post was addressing the South Loop but the same drama is playing out all over the city. Maybe making SE high schools unobtainable to the vast majority of Tier 4 families is part of a larger plan: create greater acceptance of charter high schools to prevent the middle class from fleeing the city.

    SE high schools = Unobtainium. Charter high schools = the next best thing to Unobtainium.

    I’ve been hearing good things about Amundsen, too.

  • 54. Esmom  |  August 2, 2012 at 10:29 am

    @52 you shouldn’t apologize for wanting what’s best for you/your son or feel guilty about not always considering society’s needs first. Fixing CPS is a heavy burden. Thank goodness for all the parents and teachers willing to take it on.

  • 55. SoxSideIrish4  |  August 2, 2012 at 11:59 am

    #52~completely agree w/you…can’t help it, I’m selfish that way~I pay taxes, I want my kids to go to the best school.

    #53~aahhh, that has been all the talk this yr and the reason even more areas that wouldn’t necessarily be classed as tier 4 have now bcome tier 4…charters are always in the mix…not for me~the attrition is too high, the scores are dismal, yet they talk like they are above neighborhood schools. They aren’t. But that’s been the buzz when in my neighborhood when we first saw the map changes of tiers.

  • 56. HSObsessed  |  August 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    @51 – Yes, there’s actually a new private newborn- through 12th grade private school that supposedly will be up and running by fall 2014. It’s GEMS school, a Dubai-based for-profit school that has chosen Chicago for its first American outpost. The birth- through age 5 branch is opening in Lincoln Park this fall. The K-4th will open in a snazzy new building on the new Eastside in 2013, and the 5th through 12th in the same area in 2014. Not sure why the early years and the K-12 are planned to be 5 miles apart. The new Eastside was supposed to get a new CPS elementary a number of years ago, and I never really heard why that didn’t happen; does anyone know? Anyway, here’s some more info on GEMS:

  • 57. IBobsessed  |  August 3, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Wow, the entry point is newborn?! That leaves no time to prep your kid 😉

  • 58. klm  |  August 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I know this isn’t exactly on point, but wouldn’t it be nice if Illinois allowed “open enrollment” between school districts as is the case with my home state (Michigan) and I believe in Minnesota for over 2 decades.

    Schools that have space (which are most) actually want extra students, since the money follows the student. For example, a Chicago resident could send their kids to school in Oak Park, Wilmette, Evanston, … as long as there’s there’s space.

    Some school districts really started to scramble (and really did improve –nothing like the possibility of mass lay-offs to motivate) in order to avoid a mass exodus.

    It really does happen that poor and working-class families from inner-city areas are able to send their kids to excellent suburban schools. The result is often more socioeconomic diversity in “vanilla” suburbs, which is kinda’ a good thing. The worst schools are often emptying out because people have options, now. Of course teacher unions and administrators in failing schools districts (i.e., Detroit) hate it and give the usual “unfair” crying game (‘unfair’ for them in terms of job protection, but not kids’ right to a decent education, I would argue), but isn’t it in the best interest of children to allow inter-district movement in order to improve educational opportunity?

    The problem with American education is not that there aren’t excellent/outstanding public schools. There are. Lots of them. The problem is the inability to replicate them, especially in places like Chicago and other areas with lots of low-income students.

    This is no panacea and the way schools are funded in Illinois, the political situation, etc., will prevent this from from ever happening, but it’s sometimes fun to daydream.

  • 59. Mayfair Dad  |  August 3, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    @ 58 – sounds like vouchers. It would help maximize utilization by allowing market forces fill available seats at top performing schools regardless of attendance boundaries. Still, without the financial means to shuttle their kids to distant schools, poor families would still rely on their neighborhood school. More opportunities, yes, but also more creaming.

  • 60. RL Julia  |  August 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    Reforming the ways schools are funded would/could in some way equal the playing field between municipalities but there would be a popular uprising. People move to Wilmette (etc…) for lots of reasons but the educational system is a BIG part of the package. On the other hand, if education was financed across a larger geographic area, you wouldn’t necessarily still have the same argument for teacher residency requirements.

    In Chicago, theoretically any child can go to any school – if there is room (hence all the lotteries etc…). It is also not clear if voucher programs really do work as they were intended to – I couldn’t find what I was looking for – which was a discussion of kid who used vouchers to buy into another public school system – anyone have any pointers on that? I did find this though which I thought was interesting. and

  • 61. cps alum  |  August 3, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    @58– schools are funded differently in those states. For example in Minnesota approx 70% of school funding comes directly from the state. Local municipalities and federal sources contribute the remaining 30%. In Illinois it is the opposite. In 2008 about 65% of the funding was local (i.e. property taxes) and 27.5% state and 7.5% federal.

    When the majority of funds are local property taxes the open enrollment model doesn’t work. Districts with a strong property tax base actually end up paying even more than 65% of the funding… so they don’t want to except students from outside their boundaries.

    The real problem is how Illinois funds it’s schools. Michigan switched from the Illinois model about 20 years ago, and thus enjoys open enrollment schools.

  • 62. Esmom  |  August 3, 2012 at 2:58 pm

    @57, test prep in utero! We may laugh but I’m sure if someone thought it would help them get a coveted slot they’d do it. Or if a greedy entrepreneur thought he could make a buck on this angle he/she would!

  • 63. Esmom  |  August 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    @58 Didn’t James Meeks have the same idea/daydream when he sent a busload of inner city kids to New Trier? I can’t remember how that was “resolved.”

  • 64. klm  |  August 3, 2012 at 4:37 pm


    “Creaming”? Yes, absolutely in many cases. But, at least it’s something for kids that have nothing but a “failure-factory” as an educational option.

    Also, we already have “creaming” in CPS. How many kids take 2 buses and a train to attend a CPS SE HS instead of walking to Crane or Fenger? Is it fair for those schools when they lose out with a student to WY or WP? How many families schlep their kids from 87th Steet to a school like LaSalle in Lincoln Park–or some similar distance too far to be covered by CPS transportation (as is the case with one family that I know of). There’s a mother at Lincoln that drives her IG kid from the far south side (Hammond, Indiana is a few blocks from their home) and back. Some might think it’s unfair that he was “creamed” from his local CPS neighborhood school, but, hey, he’s getting a great education now.

    Virtually every parent of this site is “creaming” in order to get their own (usually) middle-class+ kid(s) a decent education (didn’t you say your own kids attend/ed magnet/IG schools? –obviously this is no way a criticism, you’re doing right by your kids and being a good/model parent –Bravo, really.), unless they’re sending their kids to a CPS neighborhood school. Even then, some families (including mine) are “creaming” by moving their middle-class/upper-middle-class families into the Bell, Blaine, Lincoln, etc., districts in order to keep their kids away from lower-performing schools in their previous address attendance boundary (that are usually more ‘low-income’ and ‘non-Asian minority’ in their student population, although that’s not why people are sometimes moving away –it’s the low-scores). Not every family has a minimum $1.2M+ for a single family home, which is what it takes to live in The Lincoln School District (even after the housing bust).

    Then again, shouldn’t any educational institution worth its salt be trying hard to keep and attract students rather than complain about how other schools are “creaming” or stealing? Schools play such a seminal role in any kid’s life that I believe that they should be working hard for the privilege of educating him/her. I know that sounds airy-fairy, but that’s what good schools already do, directly or indirectly.

  • 65. HS Mom  |  August 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    KLM – Very well said

  • 66. CarolA  |  August 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Can’t speak to all schools, but I know for a fact that when LaSalle ll and Disney ll opened, they were given over a million dollars (maybe several because 1 mil isn’t much when starting from scratch) to set up. Not quite fair that neighborhood schools should try hard to keep and attract students when a million dollars extra isn’t going their way.

  • 67. cps alum  |  August 3, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    this article sums up what happened with Meeks.. Unfortunately schools are still funded the same way today as they were in 2010

  • 68. cps alum  |  August 3, 2012 at 7:14 pm

    in meant *2008

  • 69. Esmom  |  August 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    @66, thank you, it was nice to be refreshed on the details. What a heartfelt, concerted effort. Yet it appears not to have done a thing to make any headway on the issues.

  • 70. Katy  |  August 6, 2012 at 11:39 pm

    @14 sorry I am late to the conversation. My kids graduated from Skinner 2years ago. When I was there I heard “rumblings” from some of the veteran neighborhood parents who were starting to feel pushed out. It really is sad that it has come to this. Both of my kids graduated from the classical program but the neighborhood program really what makes Skinner a great mix in my opinion. I feel bad that some of these families are starting to feel uncomfortable.

  • 71. Katy  |  August 6, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    By the way both of my boys attend Lincoln Park and the crap that some of these kids get away with is definately a matter of perception. Lincoln park and other schools don’t like to report MANY incidents because it makes them look bad. Fights, drugs, stealing, tagging, teacher intimidation, etc….

  • 72. HSObsessed  |  August 23, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    Below is coverage on CBS on this issue. At the very end, it says that CPS is setting aside 25% of each class at the new Jones for neighborhood kids?? Did I miss that?

  • 73. HSObsessed  |  August 23, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    So “old” Jones holds 800 students, so 200 are currently admitted citywide each year. The new building will hold 1200 students, so each class will be 300, but 25% of the spots are apparently for neighborhood kids (admitted by lottery only?? what is the boundary??). So, 75 are admitted to new Jones from the neighborhood, and 225 are admitted from citywide. So, citywide # of seats per year grows a whopping 25 seats! AND this group wants to reuse the old Jones building as a new neighborhood high school on top of it?

  • 74. Kreen  |  August 29, 2012 at 1:39 am

    I live in the south loop and my son did not get accepted into jones, but did get accepted into lane. Now he has to travel 1 hour a day just to get to school. We need a better high school out here on the South Loop (other than jones)! I would not want my younger children to travel all the way up north just to go to a good school.

  • 75. Chicago School GPS  |  August 31, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I heard this week that CPS will NOT be implementing a “Single Application/Single Acceptance” plan for this year’s HS Application. That means that you can still get accepted this spring to an SEHS and an IB program and a Magnet program since they are all on different applications.

    For those looking to find “Hidden Gems” Chicago High Schools (public & private), check out . This is a High School Fair on Sept. 16 from 2-5PM at Holy Trinity High School, 1443 W. Division, where parents and middle schoolers can not only talk with administrators from over 25 schools (including Alcott, Senn, Lake View, ChiArts and more on the way) but they can also attend info seminars to learn about the Public & Private HS Admissions process; Testing for SEHS, Catholic & Independent Schools; Scholarship Ins and Outs; and peer to peer Q&A as well as “Entrance Essay” writing mini boot camp for middle schoolers because many programs do require essays for admission. The fair is geared toward anyone with a 6th through 8th grader who wants to learn about high school choices beyond the “elite 5” selective enrollment CPS schools (there are actually 9 SEHS schools in all!)

    Folks who pre-register will be entered to win great raffle prizes including discounts on tutoring services. Check out

  • 76. ChiSchoolGPS  |  September 2, 2012 at 12:45 pm

    I heard as well that Jones will be opening some spots for neighborhood kids when the capacity increases in their new building.

    I also heard that there will be NO single application/single acceptance change this year for 8th graders so you can still apply to SEHS, IB and Magnet programs and get offers from each type of school. Conversely, it also means that some kids may not hear good news in the first round but should sit tight until other kids who have multiple offers make their final decision and turn down a few slots. CPSOAE’s website will update their page when more details are available, but apparently they are streamlining their online registration process for high school applications:

    I highly recommend that those looking for public and private high school choices within the next few years should attend the “Hidden Gems” High School Fair on Sept. 16 at 2PM at Holy Trinity High School, 1443. W. Division, to learn more about admissions, testing, scholarships, essay writing, etc. Check out details at

  • 77. anon  |  January 24, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Thought I would revive this topic in light of the press release that the old Jones building will mean that Jones is expanding. Does anyone know what that means in terms of more available seats for this go round?

  • 78. Chicago School GPS  |  January 25, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Check out the letter from the Jones Principal on the “Figuring out the HS Thing” thread, but the quick answer means that there will be 350 SEHS spots and 75 non-test CTE (neighborhood) spots offered the week of Feb. 18.

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