CPS to hold hearing on gay friendly school

Chicago Public Schools officials will hold a community forum tonight on a proposed new school catering to gay students.

The proposed Pride Campus of Greater Lawndale Little Village School for Social Justice would be designed to offer a supportive environment for gay, bisexual and  transgender students, as well as those unsure of their sexual orientation.

But the school would be open to all students, says Bill Greaves, director of the city Advisory Council on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues.

The proposed school would be included in CPS's Renaissance 2010 initiative, which calls for construction of 100 new schools. If approved, the school would open in September 2010.

Tonight's community forum, which will be facilitated by the Chicago Public Schools’ Office of New Schools, is open to the public and will be held in the Billie Jean King Recreation Room at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St. It is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

A 90-minute public comment period will follow a brief presentation about the proposal. Members of the public will also be able to meet one-on-one with Pride Campus presenters after the formal meeting ends.

The forum is just the first step, albeit a big one, toward a new school. CPS chief Arne Duncan must approve the proposal, and a second public hearing would be held in October. After those steps, the Chicago Board of Education would vote on the issue.

Chad Weiden, assistant principal at social justice campus, says the school is not being proposed as a gay school. Instead, he says, it will be gay friendly.

“There is a world of difference,” Weiden says.

The school’s design team, which includes Greaves, Weiden, two CPS student development officials and a University of Illinois at Chicago professor.

“We really want to be a training hub, a national model,” Weiden says.

Greaves says a location for the school has not been chosen.