Chinatown leaders call for new South Side high school

From Sun-Time: http://chicago.suntimes.com/politics/chinatown-leaders-call-for-new-south-side-high-school/

[Ming Chen, 18, speaks at a hearing on the Chicago public schools capital budget, calling on the district to build a new high school to serve the Bridgeport and Armour Square neighborhoods. He rides the bus for 30 minutes to get to Kelly High school in Brighton Park from his home in Chinatown. | Andy Grimm/Sun-Times]

Ming Chen, 18, speaks at a hearing on the Chicago public schools capital budget, calling on the district to build a new high school to serve the Bridgeport and Armour Square neighborhoods. He rides the bus for 30 minutes to get to Kelly High school in Brighton Park from his home in Chinatown. | Andy Grimm/Sun-Times

Each morning, 18-year-old Ming Chen gets up about 6 a.m. to get ready for school, or, more specifically, for the 30-minute bus ride that takes him to school.

Thomas Kelly High School is the most popular school for Ming and most high-school age kids in Chinatown, because it is one of the closest neighborhood schools, though “close” still means many kids from his neighborhood take two buses to get there.

 

The teen was one of half a dozen speakers at a hearing Monday evening on the Chicago Public Schools capital budget, which does not yet include a new high school to serve growing communities on the city’s Southwest Side.

 

Ming, who plans to study mathematics or finance in college, said he wasn’t concerned about the budget crisis currently facing CPS.

“This community deserves more resources,” said Ming, who earned a full ride to Denison University. “If there was a neighborhood school that was closer, I would probably go there.”

Other community leaders also seemed less concerned about the bad news that confronted the district last week, when Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a $215 million payout to the district that hinged on reaching a deal on the state budget.

On Friday, the district unveiled a capital plan that could total $938 million, with CPS CEO Forrest Claypool pointing out that the construction budget comes from tax revenues that can’t be diverted to pay for school operations.

 

 

[C.W. Chan, chairman of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, speaks at a hearing on the Chicago public schools capital budget, calling for a new high school to serve the Chinatown and Bridgeport neighborhoods. | Andy Grimm/Sun-Times]

 

David Wu, a member of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, said the menu of neighborhood schools available to Chinatown and Bridgeport aren’t bad, with many students choosing Kelly, Whitney Young, King College Prep, but none of them are close by. With a long wait before and after school for transportation home, many Chinatown students give up on extracurricular activities.

The Chinatown area’s population is growing, as is the nearby South Loop, but the area remains a “school desert,” Wu said.

“Thirty years ago, most Armour Square or Bridgeport families sent their children to parochial schools,” Wu said. “But the demographics have changed, with many more Asian and Hispanic immigrants than in the past. These families need a good neighborhood school option.”

District spokeswoman Emily Bittner said after the meeting that the capital plan does include spending for a new high school on the South Side — with a price tag as great as $77 million — but she said the district has not yet decided where it will be located.