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GEMS World Academy In Downtown Closing Its High School Program

GEMS' future in Chicago is unclear, but all students can keep their seats through the end of the school year, officials said.

GEMS World Academy in Lakeshore East
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DOWNTOWN — GEMS World Academy, a private school in Lakeshore East, is halting its high school program as its future in Chicago is in limbo.

The school at 350 E. South Water St. opened in 2014 and enrolls about 400 students in pre-K through 12th grade, according to International Schools Database. Annual tuition is $28,500-$38,800.

Tracey Wood, co-head of school at GEMS, said all students have a spot to learn through the end of the school year, but school leaders are working to place their outgoing eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders at other schools. This would affect about a dozen current high school students, Wood said.

It is not clear why the school is phasing out its high school program. Students in 11th grade will be kept at GEMS through graduation because of a rigorous two-year program for juniors, Wood said.

“Our situation is we’re in negotiations currently. And we’re very hopeful that we will have clarification about a solution for our long-term sustainability. We hope to hear something in the next two weeks,” Wood said. “In the meantime, we’re focusing our resources on our very successful preschool through grade eight programs.”

Wood declined to answer a question about with whom the school was in negotiations or for what issue. At the conclusion of the talks, parents should know whether the school will be in Chicago for the “the foreseeable future,” Wood said.

All parents have been in the loop since October and have been told they should have a “plan B” for their children while negotiations continue, Wood said.

GEMS’ Chicago location is one of 250 schools across the globe, all part of Dubai-based parent company GEMS Education.

In 2019, the school announced it was expanding its Downtown campus, adding a nine-story building to its existing building in the Lakeshore East area, according to Crain’s. The addition would have expanded the school’s capability to house high school students.

But construction stopped in 2020 during the pandemic, and the buildout has yet to be completed. This left GEMS high school students without a dedicated school building. The school is renting a suite that was designed as a school nearby, Wood said.

With no dedicated facilities for high school students, it has been harder for GEMS to retain its graduating eighth-graders. On average, about 50 to 60 percent of eighth-graders stay at GEMS for high school, Wood said.

“For some families, there are CPS [high] schools that fit the bill and they don’t require tuition, and so that can be appealing for families, as well,” Wood said.

The school is hoping to conclude negotiations in the coming weeks and is focusing its resources on eighth grade and younger students, Wood said.

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