PILSEN — A plan to transform two Pilsen elementary schools — and keep enrollment numbers up — was well-received by parents at a community meeting at Orozco Elementary Wednesday night.
Chicago Public Schools aims to turn Orozco Community Academy, 1940 W. 18th St., from part-gifted, part-neighborhood school into an exclusively gifted school, while Cooper Elementary, 1624 W. 19th St., would bring back a dual language curriculum and expand its grade levels.
District officials presented details of the plan and a timeline for the transition to 60 parents and community members Wednesday.
Currently, Orozco houses a Regional Gifted Center for English Learners program from kindergarten to eighth grade, as well as a neighborhood school program for six, seventh and eighth grade students.
Under the proposed changes, the Level 1 CPS school would offer a “wall to wall” gifted program, expanding its boundaries to allow children from anywhere in the city to apply for the selective-enrollment program, said Orozco Principal Efrain Martinez.
Orozco currently serves 542 students, and Cooper 418 students, district officials said.
Minerva Garcia Sanchez, chief of schools at CPS, said the proposal is supported by parents, community organizations and elected officials, including Ald. Danny Solis (25th).
Orozco parent and Local School Council member Marisa Santiago said the reassignment of the schools will benefit a lot of children living on the city’s Southwest Side.
“This [change] would be an ideal situation for all the children,” said Santiago, who lives in McKinley Park.
Annabell Perez, a parent at Cooper Elementary and a Local School Council member, has lobbied for changes at the school for two years. She also supports the plan.
Perez, who attended Cooper and whose children now attend the school, said she believes in the Dual Language Program is a great benefit to students.
While the proposal received mostly positive feedback, one parent, Angel Salgado, said he worried removing Orozco’s neighborhood program could limit options for parents in the neighborhood.
If approved by the Chicago Board of Education, school officials plan to transition the schools gradually. The board could vote on the proposal as soon as February.
Orozco’s boundaries would be reassigned to allow Cooper to phase in sixth-eighth grades by the 2021-22 school year. Meanwhile, the dual language program would be introduced to every grade level starting at kindergarten every year, Cooper Principal Martha Alba previously told Block Club Chicago.
“One of the main reasons that we sought out the opportunity for this came originally from the issue around dropping enrollment,” Alba said. “We knew that there were students in the community leaving to enroll in schools that had specialized programs.”
Martinez previously told Block Club Chicago the changes would give students across the city more opportunity to access a gifted program.
“It is very important that we give equity of access to all of our students,” Martinez said,
CPS will hold another community meeting on the proposed changes at the schools from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Cooper Elementary.
A third meeting is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. Jan. 31 at the Chicago Board of Education, 42 W. Madison St.
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