First school hearing slated for today

  • By Paul D. Bowker
  • Education reporter
  • February 04, 2008 @ 1:01 AM

In the midst of a low-income area on Chicago's South Side, an elementary school covering an entire city block is rising above the one- and two-story homes and rental units that surround it.

It is the new Miles Davis Academy, 6730 S. Paulina, which is scheduled to open in the fall for than 600 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 8. When completed, the three-story building will offer 100,000 square feet of space.

"It is going to be a gorgeous building," said Arne Duncan, Chicago Public Schools chief.

Before it opens, though, the new Miles Davis will be the subject of the first in a series of public hearings on school closures and transformations -- some of them controversial.

Duncan said he does not expect much conflict at the Miles Davis hearing, which will be held at 3 p.m. today at the CPS Central Office, 125 S. Clark.

But there will be plenty of emotional fireworks to follow in the 18 public hearings scheduled in upcoming days. A wide-ranging CPS proposal of consolidations and "turnaround" school projects would affect hundreds of teachers and more than 7,000 students. On Feb. 27, the school board is expected to take action on most, if not all, of the proposals that affect 19 city schools, Davis among them.

CPS plans to close the old Miles Davis and Johns Middle Academy, 6936 S. Hermitage Ave., and move those children to the new Miles Davis, a math and science magnet school with neighborhood attendance boundaries.

The new building is in deep contrast to the small homes surrounding it, some of them boarded up. Nearly all of the children in the neighborhood come from low-income families. Just two blocks away is the current Miles Davis Elementary, a two-story building constructed in 1927 that is only big enough to hold classes for 306 kids in pre-kindergarten through grade 3.

Also included in the CPS plans is the firing of teaching and administrative staffs at Orr High School, 730 N. Pulaski, and its two feeder elementary schools, Howe Elementary and Morton Career Academy. The district wants to turn over management of those schools to Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL).

Thursday, the AUSL announced it had received a $10.3 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help fund the "turnaround" project at Orr and its feeder schools. AUSL would hire new staffs, train them and re-open the schools this fall.

The hearing for the Orr High School proposal will be at 3 p.m. Thursday, at the CPS Central Office, followed at 7 p.m. by a hearing on Howe Elementary. The Morton Career Academy hearing will be held at 3 p.m. Feb. 8.

Harper High School, 6520 S. Wood, identified as an underperforming school and located just two blocks from Miles Davis, is also slated to have its staff fired and be a turnaround school. Its hearing is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 11.

CPS public hearings

Here is the schedule for the Chicago Public Schools' public hearings on proposed turnaround schools, consolidations and relocations (all hearings at CPS Central Office, 125 S. Clark St., Board Chambers 5th floor unless otherwise noted):

  • Feb. 4: Miles Davis and Johns Academy, 3-6 p.m.
  • Feb. 6: Midway Academy, 3-6 p.m.; Abbott Elementary, 7-10 p.m.
  • Feb. 7: Orr Campus, 3-6 p.m.; Howe Elementary, 7-10 p.m.; Midway Academy, 5-8 p.m., Hancock High School, 4034 W. 56th St.
  • Feb. 8: Morton Career Academy, 3-6 p.m.; Edison Regional Gifted Center, 5-8 p.m., Edison Center, 6220 N. Olcott Ave.
  • Feb. 9: Duprey Elementary, noon-3 p.m., 1405 N. Washtenaw Ave.
  • Feb. 11: Fulton Elementary, 3-6 p.m.; Harper High School, 7-10 p.m.; Miles Davis and Johns Academy, 5-8 p.m., St. Andrews Temple, 1743 W. Marquette Rd.
  • Feb. 13: Copernicus Elementary, 3-6 p.m.; Carver Middle School, 7-10 p.m.
  • Feb. 14: Gladstone Elementary, 3-6 p.m.; De La Cruz Elementary, 7-10 p.m.
  • Feb. 15: Irving Park Middle School, 3-6 p.m.; Anderson Elementary, 7-10 p.m.
  • Feb. 16: Gladstone Elementary, noon-3 p.m., 1231 S. Damen Ave.

CPS turnaround proposals

  • Harper High School, 6520 S. Wood, 1,261 students.
  • Fulton Elementary, 5300 S. Hermitage, 672 students.
  • Copernicus Elementary, 6010 S. Throop, 496 students.
  • Orr High School, 730 N. Pulaski Road, will be combined from Mose Vines High School, EXCEL-Orr Academy and Applied Arts Science and Technology Academy, total of 1,411 students.
  • Howe Elementary, 720 No. Lorel, 696 students.
  • Morton Career Academy, 431 N. Troy, 262 students.

CPS consolidations

  • Gladstone Elementary, 1231 S. Damen, 287 students, pre-k through grade 8. School would close, attendance boundary would be reassigned to Smyth Magnet School, 1059 W. 13th and Plamondon, 2642 W. 15th Place.
  • Johns Middle Academy, 6936 S. Hermitage Ave., 308 students, grades 4-8. One of two schools to be consolidated into new Miles Davis, 6740 S. Paulina.
  • Miles Davis Academy, 6723 S. Wood, 306 students, pre-k through grade 3. Would be consolidated into new Miles Davis magnet school, along with Johns Middle Academy students.
  • Anderson Elementary, 1148 N. Honore St., 580 students, pre-k through grade 8. School would eventually be phased out; new students would attend Pritzker Elementary, 2009 W. Schiller St.
  • Midway Academy, 5434 S. Lockwood Ave., 90 students, grades 2-8. School would close, children would attend neighborhood schools.
  • Carver Middle School, 801 E. 133rd Pl., 244 students, grades 5-8. Would consolidate with Carver Primary, 901 E. 133rd Place, which is located next door.
  • De La Cruz, 2317 W. 23rd Pl., 102 students, grades 7-8. Would be consolidated with Finkl Elementary, 2332 Western Ave.
  • Abbott Elementary, 3630 S. Wells St., 99 students, pre-k through grade 8. Would be consolidated with Graham Elementary, 4436 S. Union Ave.
  • Irving Park Middle School, 3815 N. Kedvale Ave., 348 students, grades 7-8. Would be phased out; new students in the fall would attend Marshall Middle School, 3900 N. Lawndale Ave.
  • Edison Regional Gifted Center, 6220 N. Olcott Ave., 274 students, pre-k through grade 8. Would be relocated to Albany Park Multicultural Academy, 4929 N. Sawyer Ave., but would remain a Regional Gifted Center.
  • Roque De Duprey Elementary, 1405 N. Washtenaw Ave., 235 students, grades 1-8. Would be relocated to Von Humboldt Elementary, 2620 W. Hirsch, one block away.

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