For the past three years, Lane Tech has applied to Chicago Public Schools to open an Academic Center on its campus, which would provide an accelerated curriculum to qualified seventh- and eighth-grade students. The first two attempts ended with CPS failing to act on the proposal, so this time around Lane is taking its case to the public.
“It would help to show support from residents,” says Lane Tech Principal Antoinette LoBosco. The school currently is gathering signatures on a petition to present to CPS.
LoBosco has a number of theories why the Academic Center has yet to garner a green light. At a meeting coordinated by Ald. Eugene Schulter, principals of nearby elementary schools complained of a potential brain drain. Likewise, Taft High School, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr, is protective of attracting students to its own Academic Center.
Neither fear is warranted, according to LoBosco. Lane’s proposal allows for just 90-100 students accepted into each elementary class, drawn from across the entire city. Further minimizing the impact on local elementary schools, she anticipates attracting private school students into the public school system. About 15 percent of freshmen accepted to Lane come from private schools.
With respect to Taft, the two schools are separated geographically. In addition, Lane’s status as a selective enrollment high school differentiates it from Taft.
In Lane’s favor: a CPS market study that showed a significant population would benefit from an Academic Center on Chicago’s North Side. Lindblom, 6130 S. Wolcott, and Whitney Young, 211 S. Laflin, are the only other selective enrollment high schools with Academic Centers.
“Kids are getting turned away from gifted programs and existing Academic Centers,” LoBosco says. “We need one on the North Side.”
Lane has both the space and the resources to absorb the younger students. The Academic Center would make use of current classrooms and staff, since high school teachers typically are certified for grades 6-12.
“I’ve already had teachers come up to me telling me they have elementary experience,” LoBosco says. “It might be refreshing for them to work with younger kids.”
For students, the benefits include automatic acceptance to Lane Tech for high school—a huge boon in the competitive landscape of Chicago’s selective enrollment system. The curriculum for nearly the entire eighth grade would consist of high school classes—students would earn high school credit before even entering ninth grade.
“Students could start language and science earlier,” LoBosco says. In some instances, the youngsters would be integrated with Lane’s freshmen—in Chinese class, for example. While that may seem intimidating to the elementary students, LoBosco doesn’t anticipate any problems mingling the two age groups. “Our kids are very big-hearted,” she says. “They would think it’s cute.”
With Lane’s staff and student body behind the idea, LoBosco is now hoping to generate the kind of public groundswell CPS can’t ignore.