Two community groups are trying to figure out their next steps after they lost their battle to block the construction of a new Noble Street Charter School.
The City Council’s zoning committee voted 7 to 3 to approve a request to rezone an area across the street from Prosser Career Academy to allow for another school. The School Board has not yet approved the charter school, but Belmont-Cragin is considered a priority area for new schools.
“We don’t mean to diminish the success of any schools, but this is also a neighborhood that CPS has named overcrowded,” said Angela Montagna, director of external affairs for Noble Charter Schools Network. “It’s with this knowledge that we decided to come into the Belmont-Cragin community. We are adding a high-quality educational resource to the community.”
According to CPS standards, Prosser is 127 percent over capacity.
However, two groups—Chicago Students Organizing to Save Our Schools and Communities United for Quality Education—did not want to see Noble move in. Also, Ald. Nick Sposato (36th Ward) opposed the new charter.
Sposato said he doesn’t believe it is Noble’s intention to cause a rift in the neighborhood, but there are areas that are more overcrowded. And with the new per-pupil budget system, every student who Noble draws away from Prosser will mean a loss of money for Prosser.
“I, who have lived here all my life, whose house is two miles away from there, don’t think it’s a good location,” said the alderman.
Safety also is a major concern for community members who do not like the idea of having potential rival high schools across the street from each other.
Once the new ward map goes into effect in January 2015, the new Noble would technically be in Ald. Emma Mitts’s 37th ward, while Prosser will be in 36th Ward.
The new Noble Street school will be built with a $20 million grant from Illinois Tool Works, a private manufacturing company. They are donating the money to fund the project in honor of their former President and CEO David Speer, who passed away last year. It will be focused on STEM fields. (This information is corrected from the original article.)
Community education activists plan to continue putting pressure on officials to invest in neighborhood schools, said Juan Cruz, a spokesperson for Communities United for Quality Education. He said members of his group will be at the next Board of Education meeting on October 25.