Hundreds of concerned parents and community members rallied at a vocal Logan Square meeting Tuesday night and then marched through the neighborhood with candles in hand to protest a recent Chicago Board of Education decision to turn Ames Middle School into a military academy. The protesters also voiced their uncertainty about the future of Kelvyn Park High School.
The Logan Square Neighborhood Association's 52nd Congress saw a discussion that covered a variety of important community issues, but chief among them was a strong feeling that Chicago Public School officials and Mayor Rahm Emanuel are not listening to the concerns of area residents.
“There is a very clear reason the leadership at CPS is not responsive to the community, and that’s because they aren’t accountable to us’’ said State Rep. Will Guzzardi (D-Chicago), who was elected two months ago due to, in part, his strong backing from Chicago teachers and his support of an elected school board. “The community is mourning the loss of Ames and needs assurance from all its leaders that there is a plan for Kelvyn Park.’’
Guzzardi addressed protesters under drizzling, dark skies in front of Ames Middle School, and led the group in a chant: “Si, se puede.’’
There is little hope that the Ames decision will be reversed, and community leaders and education activists are now worried about the future of Kelvyn Park High School. The new academy replacing Ames would accept students from across the city, displacing some neighborhood students, and a military style school would not appeal to all local students and parents. Presumably as a result, CPS announced the addition of seventh and eighth grades students to Kelvyn Park High. But with the start of the 2014 school year less than four months away, no plans have been made public on how the district plans to add capacity to the school or accommodate the combining of middle school and high school students.
While a CPS spokesman addressed the group last night and assured them Kelvyn Park would be given all the upgrades it needs, audience members were not impressed.
Neighbors worry Kelvyn Park will not be ready, at best, or might even close if the Board of Education is sitting on a plan it has not yet revealed.
“We’ve heard it all before with Ames,’’ said Jerry Skinner a Kelvyn Park English teacher and Local School Council member. “A different CPS spokesman came here and said the same things when they promised us Ames wouldn’t be changed.’’
His colleague had similar concerns: “They have to placate the public by letting them think they are going to talk this through, but they’ve already decided,’’ said Brian Brennan, a Kelvyn Park social studies teacher.
Ellen Ray, outgoing president of the Logan Square neighborhood association, summed up the neighborhood's mood and desire to continue fighting to be heard.
“There will be a school here, but it will not be our school,’’ she said in front of Ames. “We will not let what happened to Ames happen to Kelvin Park.
“And we will not go gently into this night or any other.’’
Logan Square residents also are troubled by what they say is a housing displacement crisis along and around Milwaukee Ave. due to rising property values and taxes. Alds. Rey Colon (35th), Scott Waguespack (32nd), and Proco "Joe'' Moreno (1st) were on hand and committed to taking part in a housing summit meant to address and come up with solutions for the concerns.
Check back with Progress Illinois for coverage on the housing summit.