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Near North Has Changed: Local CPS Schools Have Not

Over the last decade, Near North has changed in many ways. Analysis of Chicago Public Schools data, though, shows that Near North’s two CPS elementary schools have not. The schools remain low-performing academically and racially segregated.

Attendance is down sharply at Jenner and Manierre, and more than half of the students who live in the CPS attendance boundaries for these neighborhood schools choose instead to attend another neighborhood school or a charter school.

As Near North becomes more mixed—racially, by income, and culturally—strong neighborhood public schools are a resource for all families. As local organizations such as the Near North Unity Program strive to develop a community that serves and welcomes all families, attention to local schools should be a part of that mission.

Beyond trendy restaurants and retail stores in an area, city residents look for neighborhoods that offer a good quality of life. Individuals are looking for communities with solid, well-functioning social institutions that hold their neighborhoods together, like solid police departments, good schools, engaging parks, easy transportation, and diverse places of cultural activity.

The Cabrini-Green public housing development, which is now called the Near North area, was designated as an area for change in the Chicago Housing Authority’s Plan for Transformation. Near North is defined as the community bounded by North Ave. on the North, Chicago Ave. on the South, the Chicago River on the West, and Wells Street on the East.

Attendance boundaries for Jenner and Manierre elementary schools.

Chicago Public Schools

Since the Plan for Transformation was started, approximately 3,600 former Cabrini-Green high-rise units that housed up to 15,000 people were removed and have been or are scheduled to be replaced with mixed-income developments.

The Plan for Transformation has affected every facet of life in the Near North area. With the last Cabrini high rise demolished in March 2011, the area has seen a shift in housing from primarily low-income subsidized rental housing to mixed-income developments, where a portion of housing is set aside for rentals for families who qualify for CHA and about half as many units available for purchase—some units at a locally set affordable rate and the remainder at market rate. Additionally, in the Near North area there has been a steady influx of private residential development on surrounding land that is not owned by the CHA.

Currently in the Near North area, 63% of the housing is owner occupied and 37% is rental housing. Residential development in the Near North area includes not only smaller rental units but also many developments of family-sized units going up all over the area.

The Near North side has also recently seen many recent new investments from business as well, including retail developments like Target, Jewel, Dick’s Sporting Goods Store, and Mariano’s, and there has been a steady influx of private residential development on surrounding land that is not owned by the CHA.

Education in Near North

To better address residents concerns about the effects of CHA Transformation policy, many Near North residents had a chance to voice what they would like to see as part of this planned transformation in their community. The Near North Unity Program (NNUP) lead the process to develop a Near North Quality-of-Life Plan to incorporate the vision of the community into one central document.

During the Quality-of-Life planning process, Near North residents commented that they would like to see enhancements to the local Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Neighborhood Schools. They would like the schools to better match the vision that parents have for the Near North area schools: to be more inclusive and more interconnected with the larger community.

In follow up focus groups conducted by NNUP in January and May of 2015, local residents communicated that families in the area want more access to quality CPS education in their own Near North community. Parents overwhelmingly said to the NNUP representatives and CPS administrators who were present that they want their neighborhood schools to be safe and educationally challenging.

There are currently two CPS elementary schools in the Near North area: Edward Jenner Elementary at 1119 N. Cleveland and George Manierre Elementary School at 1420 N. Hudson. Both have seen declining enrollment over the last ten years.

As early as 2000-2001 the Near North area CPS Neighborhood schools were showing signs of families leaving CPS Neighborhood education in larger numbers than the CPS average. This trend of low enrollment continues to impact our neighborhood today. Jenner has nearly half as many students as in 2000, and Manierre has less than half.

Near North students are more likely than others in CPS schools to not attend their neighborhood school.

Jenner and Manierre also continue to lose local students. Chicago Public School students are not required to attend the school that includes their address in its attendance area. They can apply to go to a charter school, a magnet, a special program, or even another neighborhood school (if that school has the capacity).

Citywide, the number of CPS elementary school students who don’t attend their neighborhood school has risen from 26% in 2000 to 38% in 2014.

Today almost 60% of Near North families who live in the attendance areas for Jenner and Manierre do not go to either of these schools. This 60% is far higher than the 38% CPS average for student attendance at CPS neighborhood schools.

Overall student population declined in tandem with the CHA demolition. Even faster than overall student decline was the increase in neighborhod area students not deciding to attend Jenner or Manierre.

Near North area residents have identified the same strategic needs to manage inclusion and quality at their local CPS schools as neighboring communities.

In Part Two of this series, read what residents of the Near North community are doing to bring  changes to neighborhood public education in the  Near North neighborhood.

Posted in Children and Youth

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