Charter school proposed across from Prosser

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The Chicago Plan Commission voted Thursday to rezone a closed lumberyard as part of plans for a new $20 million Noble charter school.

The high school would be built across the street from Charles Allen Prosser Career Academy, 2148 N. Long Ave.

Opponents of the open-enrollment charter school warn that safety due to increased traffic will be an issue as will gang conflicts from the sheer number of teens in such close proximity.

About 1,500 high school students attend Prosser, according to Chicago Public Schools.

Local School Council members at Prosser have been critical of how Ald. Emma Mitts (37th) has handled the matter.

Prosser teacher and LSC member Kassandra Tsitsopoulos said teachers expressed their concerns at the alderman’s ward night Sept. 30. Mitts told the teachers she supported opening a new charter school, said Tsitsopoulos.

Mitts, a long time community member of Prosser’s LSC, resigned that post the night before the LSC’s Oct. 8 meeting.

In an emailed statement to AustinTalks, Mitts said she resigned from the LSC due to the remapping of the 37th Ward, which takes Prosser out of the area she represents.

Mitts said she supports the addition of the charter school because Prosser is overcrowded and has a waiting list of 3,000 students.

But others say there’s plenty of room at surrounding high schools for students living in the area.

The 37th Ward has 14 grade schools that feed into two high schools, only one of which is within ward boundaries, Mitts said.

“We appreciate Prosser, but it can’t be the only option we can build upon in the future,” her statement said.

Because of district remapping of all 50 aldermanic wards, both schools will be in Ald. Nicholas Sposato’s (36th) ward.

Sposato has said he opposes the new charter school because of the negative impact it could have on Prosser.

More than 700 signatures have been collected on a petition opposing the charter high school.

One of those signatures belongs to Araceli Carrasco, whose children have attended Prosser since 2006. Two have gone on to college, including her daughter who is in her third year of nursing school.

Carrasco’s son Michael Ruiz is a senior at the tier 2 CPS-rated school. The captain of the school’s water polo team wants to go into the medical field.

The school is helping prepare him for college, and the teachers’ dedication have helped him build character, said Carrasco. And, she said, she’s never worried about her children’s safety.

She said she’s not opposed to charter schools in general, but she doesn’t think there should be one right across the street from a successful public high school.

The mostly Hispanic school has an 83 percent graduation rate compared to a 65 percent rate for the district overall, according to CPS data. The vocational school also offers an International Baccalaureate program.

Carrasco said she doesn’t understand why the charter school is interested in that location.

“Why there? Prosser has been a good school. Why so close? Why put funds there when we’ve been asking for funds?” she asked.

Prosser’s budget was cut by $1,154,325 this year, according to CPS

The new charter school would be built without the use of public funds and will provide jobs for local residents, said Mitts.

With the Chicago Plan Commission’s approval, the zoning request moves to the city council’s zoning committee and will ultimately need approval from CPS.

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