Skinner gets a new building, and more students

  • By Paul D. Bowker
  • Education reporter
  • November 20, 2008 @ 3:00 PM

The Chicago Board of Education approved the relocation of Skinner Elementary Classical School to a new location, and the students will be getting some new classmates in addition to a new building.

When Skinner Classical moves from its temporary site at 1443 N. Ogden Ave. to 1260 W. Adams next fall, a fine arts and technology magnet cluster school will also open at the same location.

The action approved yesterday by the school board, does not sit well with some parents of current Skinner Classical students, who must take an entrance examination to gain admittance to Skinner. The magnet cluster school will serve the surrounding West Loop neighborhood with no required entrance examination.

While only kindergarten students will be enrolled in the magnet school next fall, ultimately there will be no cap on the enrollment of neighborhood children. The school will add one grade each year until it is kindergarten through grade 8, which may squeeze space in the new building since Skinner already has 600 students and the new building will have a capacity of about 900.

“That is unsettling,” says Peter McCauley, a parent of a fifth-grader at Skinner.

“Skinner, as we know it today, will cease to exist in an eight-year period,“ says Ronald Barnes, a parent. “It’s just a matter of time before Skinner is gone.“

Skinner parents originally voiced their concerns at the September board meeting, causing a series of meetings with Chicago Public Schools officials.

Deborah Clark, Skinner Classical principal, says available space is a concern for her, too. More than 90 percent of Skinner’s students meet or exceed state standards in the Indiana Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). Currently, Skinner students in grades 5 though 8 must score in the 80th percentile or higher in math and reading for admittance. Once the school is open to neighborhood enrollment without testing, Clark says, she would expect a rapid growth in registrations.

“I have a feeling we’ll be overcrowded in one year,” Clark says.

In anticipation of overcrowding, CPS spokesman Frank Shufton says, a Skinner North school proposal will be in front of the board to consider at its December meeting. Skinner North would operate at the former Sojourner Truth, 1443 N. Ogden, where Skinner Classical now exists. If the magnet school on West Adams grows to building capacity, then Skinner North could be Skinner everything.

Abigayil Joseph, of CPS’ academic enhancement office, says the Classical programs now in place will remain or be put in place at Skinner North.

“All important components will be replicated,“ she says.

Parents of current Skinner students are already being asked whether they want their kids at the new Skinner facility or to remain at the Sojourner Truth building as a part of the new Skinner North.

The board yesterday also approved four new high schools that will open in fall 2010, increasing the number of new schools approved the last two months to 19. They are all Renaissance 2010 schools, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s initiative to have 100 new schools opened by 2010.

The four new high schools all will have a career and college preparation focus. One of the most unique additions is the Transportation Academy of Chicago, serving students in grades 9-12. The school will partner with the Chicago Transportation Authority and Chicago LEADS, preparing students for careers in the transportation industry.

Other new approved schools: Chicago Hope Academy, a proposed contract school to be located on the West Side; Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, a contract school that would focus on careers in health sciences, and the Urban Prep Academy for Young Men, South Shore, modeled after the all-boys Urban Prep Charter Academy.

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

Discuss

SHELLEY STUNARD, 11-21-2008

Skinner Classical has been a top elementary in state for decades. The NEW facility was a re-build of the old Skinner facility. Skinner Classical serves children with special "gifted" needs from all over the city. The temporary facility that Skinner students we in for 4 years is falling apart and is built more like a prison. There are not even lockers available for students K-6. There is NOT a proper gym, nor a proper library. This building is not suitable for any school long term and after these children have been waiting for their "NEW" school - to now take it away i completely unfair. Next year there will be 1/3 new K students and every year more and more. Eventually, there will be only 1/3 Skinner classical kids left. Because there is no cap of how many neighborhood kids can go to a "neighborhood" school - as the neighborhood grows and needs all the seats, the neighborhood will get all the seats. The school board should re-build another NEW school for Skinner Classical! This school was built with 34 million dollars - the property was already Skinner's - there are only 4 Classical schools in Chicao and the other ones are far south or far north. Skinner is a great school because of the students, the teachers and the principle - the board is forcing all the teachers, the principle and students to split - We only hope the board has a bigger plan that they have yet to disclose. West Loop residents had options - taking away gifted seats should not have been one of them. - Very Unfair to all the inner city children who need an accerlerated propgram and to be able to go to a school that does not require 3 hours a day on a school bus!

GEOFF DOUGHERTY, 11-24-2008

Shelley,

thanks for the comment. Obviously, there's a lot of parents who care deeply about this school.