ALBANY PARK — Chicago Public Schools rejected a controversial proposal to move an Avondale charter high campus to a building down the street from an Albany Park neighborhood school.
The district board did not vote Wednesday on the application to relocate ASPIRA Early College High School from 3986 W. Barry Ave. to 3729 W. Leland Ave., less than a half-mile from Roosevelt High School. District officials refused to send the proposal for board members to act on.
Bing Howell, the district’s portfolio chief, agreed with arguments from Roosevelt staff and Ald. Rossana Rodriguez (33rd) that having ASPIRA within Roosevelt’s enrollment boundaries would negatively impact the neighborhood school’s student population and, eventually, its district funding.
“The impact on neighborhood schools” and the significant opposition from Roosevelt families weighed into the decision to not recommend, Howell said, even though the district’s review concluded the move would benefit ASPIRA students.
“As a system of schools, though, we can’t make these decisions in isolation on their impact on surrounding schools and school communities,” Howell said, according to the Sun-Times.
CPS already leases the Leland building to ASPIRA Haugan Middle School, which serves as a feeder school to the charter’s high school. The high school enrolls 325 students, the majority of whom are Latino.
At a district meeting earlier this month, Alds. Felix Cardona (31st) and Ariel Reboyras (30th), who represent nearby wards, favored ASPIRA’s proposal. Reboyras has three ASPIRA schools in his ward and said students from the charter network often volunteer in his office to get their service hours.
Roosevelt, with more than 1,000 students, serves Albany Park, Ravenswood Manor and Irving Park. Students within the neighborhood boundaries are guaranteed enrollment.
Rodriguez and Albany Park neighbors have mobilized for months to block ASPIRA’s proposal. The alderman said she acted to “protect my only neighborhood high school,” which has worked hard to improve its district rating after years of underperforming.
Roosevelt’s enrollment dropped from 2018 to 2019 after it closed its middle school program. But the school’s population has increased from 962 students in 2019 to 1,021 students in 2021, according to Principal Dan Kramer and CPS data.
Opening another high school nearby threatened to undo Roosevelt’s progress, neighbors argued.
“We are not talking about sharing the same neighborhood. We are talking about almost sharing the same block,” Kramer said last month.
Cassie Walker Burke of Chalkbeat contributed.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago, an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.