Updated: March 5, 2013 6:18AM
South Loop needs a high school
Any neighborhood that seeks stability, safety and enhanced recreational resources needs a high school — a public high school open to all. It’s the one amenity that the 2nd ward lacks. This is the chief reason I have fought over the last five years to keep the old Jones building from being torn down. As the central city area (including the South Loop, Near West Side and Chinatown) has blossomed over the past decade, we’ve gained all the other basics — grocery stores, cafes, pharmacies, banks. We’ve got new L stops and new parks, but no neighborhood high school.
Middle-class families have been moving to the central city area for three decades now. But 2010 Census data indicate that many leave as their children approach school age. And they head for the ’burbs, taking a chunk of our tax base with them. That’s why I had hoped the old Jones College Prep building could become a neighborhood high school.
I’m glad the old Jones is not being torn down, and will allocate some added seats for neighborhood residents. But while Jones is an excellent high school, it is available only to youngsters who score in the top tier of applicants . Every day, I hear from parents who want a local public school open to any member of the community. Nothing unreasonable about that desire. A local high school can offer so much — evening classes, adult education, sports facilities, after-school and weekend activities for teens. And we have land within the 2nd Ward that could accommodate a new full-service high school.
Central city needs more public space, not less, and in a community undergoing rapid development, we need to think not only of the present but of the future. Where will the majority of children go to high school as this area becomes more developed? If we are going to increase the number of seats for elite students, justice and common sense demand that we also create new educational venues for all residents.
If we want middle-class families to stay, let’s make sure they have the same menu choices as other neighborhoods enjoy. This can only encourage more families to settle in our area and create added stability and assurance that long term, their educational and social needs can be met in their chosen neighborhood.
Ald. Bob Fioretti