New Austin high school focus of meeting

  • By Paul D. Bowker
  • Education reporter
  • December 01, 2008 @ 5:30 PM

Discussion about a possible new high school in the Austin community will be the focus of a meeting called tomorrow night by West Side community activists.

Austin residents are invited to the meeting, which is being sponsored by the Austin Community Education Network (ACEN) and Every Block A Village (EBV). The meeting will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. at Westside Health Authority, 5437 W. Division St.

Immediate hopes for a new Austin high school took a hit earlier this year when Chicago Public Schools officials delayed plans, citing a lack of capital-expenditure money to build a new school. The issue has not come in front of the Chicago Board of Education, although board members have heard pleas for a new school from Virgil Crawford of ACEN and others.

The district has been adding schools at new and existing buildings as a part of the city‘s Renaissance 2010 plan to have 100 new schools in place by fall 2010. If a new Austin High School is built, it would likely come after 2010.

“We are working with the community on potential sites for a new high school,“ says CPS spokesman Michael Vaughn.

Funding, Vaughn says, “is the biggest challenge.” CPS has received zero construction funding from the state in five years.

ACEN leaders say that 1,200 ninth-graders are being bused out of the Austin community and to other city high schools.

In place of the former Austin High School at 231 N. Pine Ave., three specialized high schools with smaller capacities were put in place to serve Austin-area students: Austin Business and Entrepreneurship Academy, Austin Polytechnical Academy and VOISE Academy. VOISE, which opened in September, stands for Virtual Opportunities Inside a School Environment. It integrates teacher instruction with an online curriculum.

All three schools are open to Austin students, says Malon Edwards, CPS spokesman.

Paul Bowker, a Chicago-area journalist with 25 years of experience, covers Chicago Public Schools for the Daily News.