Residents get first look at new school concepts

  • By Peter Sachs
  • Staff Writer
  • July 10, 2009 @ 7:00 AM

Residents across the city got an early look at proposals for new Renaissance 2010 schools that include a boarding school for high school men, an Outward Bound-inspired elementary school and a charter school that would cater to children of immigrants.

Chicago Public Schools has three school sites – one each in Englewood, South Chicago and Riverdale – that it would like to see transformed into new schools. Bidders also suggested new schools in facilities ranging from current charter schools to a former wallpaper factory.

While some of the schools place an emphasis on humanities, literature or the arts, others take more unconventional approaches. Renaissance 2010 is CPS’ plan to build new schools that take different approaches to teaching.

The proposed Media Arts and Sciences High School would slowly take over Reed Elementary’s space in Englewood. Under the high school’s proposed curriculum, sophomores would choose to focus on broadcast, film or radio, then take classes to teach them how to produce, direct and edit. In their senior year, students would get internships at places like CLTV and National Public Radio, the proposal says.

“Just in keeping our ear to the ground, a lot of parents seem genuinely excited about it and students seem excited about it,” says Beulah McLoyd, who would be the school’s principal.

Students would take college-level courses in a partnership with nearby Kennedy-King College. And their parents could also get job training through partnerships set up by the new high school, McLoyd says.

A group pitching a school in Rogers Park took a different approach.

The 60 male students at the Earn Academy boarding school would get 6 a.m. wakeup calls and be expected to do chores throughout the school before and after classes. The students would help with planning and cooking all meals, and on Wednesdays, seniors would work in internships with businesses across the city.

Leah Marshall, who is leading the Earn Academy’s design team, knows the project will be closely scrutinized by CPS. A strong board to raise money, keep the school accountable and attract businesses to host interns will be vital, she says.

“If you prepare students early on for independent living and the academic rigor that they’ll face in college, they’ll have a leg up,” says Marshall.

In all, 32 developers are pitching their projects to residents in public meetings this week, though it’s too early to say how many of those projects will get approved.

Following this week’s public meetings, CPS may narrow down the prospective school projects, and ask the remaining ones to submit full proposals that would provide more details on curricula, staffing and facilities, CPS officials say.

Those full proposals are due Aug. 10. In September, CPS will hold another round of public meetings to gather input on the projects. By October, the Board of Education will decide which projects will get the go-ahead.


Daily News Staff Writer Peter Sachs covers higher education. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 18, or peter [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.