Ninth graders allowed at Schneider Elementary next school year

Despite protests and complaints about a lack of communication, the Chicago Board of Education yesterday approved allowing 9th graders to take up residence at Schneider Elementary School next school year.

Schneider, on the city's near northwest side, usually houses students up to 8th grade.

The 9th graders will be the freshman class of a new Alcott High School for the Humanities, which will open in the fall of 2009 and ultimately expand to include 10th, 11th and 12th graders at its own campus location. Currently, Alcott is an elementary school, about 2 1/2 miles from Schneider.

The 9th graders at the new high school will be at Schneider for at least one school year, after which the Board of Education will reevaluate the situation, says CPS spokesman Frank Shuftan.

The board approved the proposal for Alcott and Schneider yesterday as part of a series of decisions about the location of new schools in the district.

Schneider's principal, Vivian Edwards, spoke in opposition to the move at the board meeting.

“Do you know what it’s going to do to my school?” Edwards, surrounded by some of school’s neighbors, asked board members, “And do you care?”
 
Her appearance before the board was preceded by public testimony from members of the Alcott community who are thrilled about the arrangement.
 
“I think this so-called marriage will be a good fit because both sets of parents have a good base,” Alcott parent Tracy Stanciel told the board.
 
David Domovic, Alcott elementary’s principal, relishes the opportunity for shared professional development with Schneider elementary teachers.
 
“I’ve been going ninety miles an hour, thinking about all the possibilities of sharing with Schneider,” said Domovic.
 
Still, far more speakers at the meeting questioned the wisdom of the move and the district’s transparency throughout the process. The Schneider supporters got an especially powerful boost from the day’s first speaker.
 
“I’m frankly a little concerned that we didn’t provide enough notice to members of our community, informing them of the move,” said 1st Ward Alderman Manny Flores. “We were unaware that CPS was looking at the relocation of Alcott to this location until the 11th hour.”
 
Schneider elementary’s neighbors produced a petition with one hundred signatures, accusing the district of failing to notify the community about last week’s public hearing on the matter.
 
Board President Michael Scott told them that—as far as he knew—all the proper notifications had been sent out.
 
The district is required to give five days notice before a public hearing, using community notices, press releases, notifications in the newspaper and the CPS website.
 
In an e-mail, a district spokesperson said that--in light of the neighbors complaints—the Office of New Schools would be coming up with a more defined way to communicate with the public in the future, ahead of the five day requirement.

In an interview with the Daily News, Schneider principal Edwards says she heard about the situation on the morning of March 10, when she got a call from her boss and was told her school would be sharing a tenant in September.
 
 “We’d been blindsided,” Edwards says.
 
 “Some people have two buildings, two wings. We don’t have that," she says. “I have a facility with two entrances, my school is old."

She also says that with any movement on the third floor --where the high school freshmen are expected to be located -- noise trickles down to the whole building.

"It’s going to directly effect the students' learning environment,” she says.

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