Nothing unites a community and makes people want to live there like a good school for the kids, particularly a high school. But in these days of very tight finances, what you want and what you can get often are two different things.
Add in some stark socioeconomic differences plus a dash of good ol' Chicago politics and you get an idea of what's at stake in a revealing dispute over what kind of public schooling to offer in the fast-growing South Loop.
On one side are Ald. Bob Fioretti, 2nd, and a group of constituents who want Chicago Public Schools to convert the old Jones College Prep high school on South State Street to a neighborhood school when the new controlled-enrollment Jones opens in the fall of 2014.
On the other side is the Board of Education, which insists that there just aren't enough students in the South Loop and adjoining areas to warrant the expenditure. The board now plans to demolish the old Jones.The article goes onto to discuss some solutions that are being bandied about. Nothing is obviously resolved, but it should be interesting. One option Fioretti is throwing around is to rennovate the Old Jones Prep school and have it completely devoted to neighborhood kids. But it doesn't sound like the school board is keen on that idea:
Renovating the 45-year-old Jones structure for a neighborhood high school would cost $18 million to $25 million, according to the board. Demolishing the school would cost $5 million to $10 million — meaning someone would have to come up with $10 million or so, not counting annual operating costs.
I must admit, it will be extremely difficult for anyone now to make a public case for not only building one new high school in one neighborhood, but spending a ton more to renovate a second high school in the same neighborhood.
(Hat tip: GL!)