Ald. Sposato says CPS will revise proposal to make sure Dunning students can go to Taft
by BRIAN NADIG
Update: Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) said at an Oct. 23 community forum that he is seeking changes in the wording of a proposal which would give families living in the Bridge, Canty, Dever and the southern portion of the Smyser attendance areas a preference for their children to enroll at Taft High School instead of their home high school, Steinmetz College Prep.
“Our kids I assure are going to be able to go (to Taft),” Sposato said. Many Dunning area parents at the meeting expressed concern that the proposal would give their children a preference to get into Taft instead of a guarantee.
Sposato said that he will attend the Chicago Board of Education’s Oct. 24 to make sure the proposal is revised.
“Based on the animosity in the room, I hope you get that guarantee tomorrow,” a man said.
Sposato responded that he would seek to hold up the vote on the matter if the proposal does not reflect a guarantee for Dunning families.
The Chicago Pubic Schools is planning to create a “proximity boundary” for Taft as part of plan to open a freshman campus for Taft at a new 1,200-seat school which is under construction at 4071 N. Oak Park Ave. Currently Taft has 899 freshmen and about 200 students in its Seventh and Academic Center, which also would be housed in the new building.
Under the plan, Dunning children who currently have Steinmetz as their home high school would be allowed into Taft if there is space, but Sposato said that the space availability language in the proposal would be eliminated, based on talks which he has had with CPS officials.
Those Dunning students who choose Taft as their top general education choice for a high school would be allowed to enroll at Taft, according to officials at the meeting.
However, several Dunning parents at the meeting said that there are worried that CPS is underestimating the number of children from Dunning who would be seeking to enroll at Taft, which is a Level 1 performing school. Some parents said that many area families who send their children to private schools would want to send their children to Taft if it were to become an option and that CPS’ figures do not take that into account.
Currently there are 350 public school eighth graders in the attendance areas of Bridge, Dever, Canty and the portion of Smyser’s attendance area which feeds into Schurz. For most of Smyser, Taft is the home high school.
CPS’ Jimm Dispensa said that up to about 210 of the 350 students would be expected to enroll at Taft, based on the current percentage of students in Taft’s attendance area who annually choose Taft over other schools.
Dispensa said that the school system is not looking to reduce Steinmetz’ attendance area and have Taft’s traditional boundaries extended south to include Bridge, Canty and Dever as new feeder schools for Taft. He said that CPS does not want to “undercut the performance improvements and enrollment improvements at Steinmetz.”
Based on CPS figures, more children from the affected elementary schools attend Taft than Steinmetz. Taft accepts out-of-area students for its ROTC and international baccalaureate programs.
“I hope in 5 years we have two great neighborhood high schools” for our community members to attend, Sposato said.
Sposato said that Steinmetz is improving and that the community around that school will turn things around, adding that a school’s reputation is not always accurate. “They have a tattoo from the past they can’t get rid of,” Sposato said.
Also at the meeting, some parents said that it would have been better for the new school building on Oak Park to be used as a 4-year high school for the Dunning area, but Sposato said that there are not enough students in the Canty, Bridge and Dever area to support a stand-alone, 4-year high school.
Under the Taft freshman plan, ninth graders would attend classes in the new building on Oak Park and then move to the main campus at 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave. for their sophomore, junior and senior years. A Hitch School parent said that they were hoping that their child could walk to Taft all four years but that the Oak Park campus would be too far from her home.
It also was reported that 64 percent of public school eighth graders in Taft’s attendance area last spring chose to attend Taft, compared to the citywide average of 25 percent for neighborhood high schools. About 15 percent of Taft’s 3,400 students live outside its attendance area.