A charter school company has pulled out of a possible Lincoln Square location after residents protested the school at a neighborhood meeting.
A Concept Schools representative said community resistance and poor timing led officials to withdraw their request for the charter school’s location. The charter school management company applied for a zoning change at 2050 W. Balmoral Ave. with Ward 40 Ald. Patrick O’Connor earlier in March.
Residents and members of the Chicago Teachers Union objected the proposal at a Bowmanville Community Organization meeting March 21. A 70-person crowd convened outside of the North Community Bank on Western Avenue, and BCO representatives had to limit the number of residents inside the bank due to fire code restrictions.
The meeting was the same night CPS announced nearby Trumbull Elementary School was on a list of 54 schools to close in the fall of 2013, when the proposed charter school would open.
“It was probably the worst timing for us to be there that night,” Concept Schools Vice President Salim Ucan told Patch. “We kind of expected that. Alderman O’Connor had given us a head’s up on what the issues might be, so we knew going in that we may face some challenges."
Ucan said he understood the community’s perspective on the new charter school because of its close proximity to Trumbull.
“It doesn’t make sense to shut down the facility and have an empty building and build another facility two blocks from it,” he said.
Still, he wishes the Balmoral location had come to fruition. Concept Schools is looking to open two new schools by the fall of 2013. The company’s first Chicago school—Chicago Math and Science Academy—is located in Rogers Park. The second is now in the rezoning process and set for McKinley Park.
Ucan said with more time, he believed residents would have supported the school.
“If we were planning on opening this school in 2014, we would have overcome that challenge because we would have reached out to the community, organized tours to (Chicago Math and Science Academy) and bring our parents and students from here… to inform people what a great asset it would be,” he said.
With the Lincoln Square location falling through, Ucan said the company is looking at two other possible locations. He declined to disclose where until a final proposal is solidified.
Both locations are in the city and one doesn’t require a zoning change, which from a timing perspective, is ideal for a fall 2013 opening.
“The communities that we have found, they don’t deal with school closing issues, or even if they do, they’re not as close as the Balmoral location,” he said.
If finalized, the school would be the first in the city unapproved by Chicago Public Schools.
Before 2011, the school district was the only authorizing body that could approve or deny charter schools. If CPS denied a request, no appeal process existed.
That year, the Illinois state legislature created an independent state charter school commission to hear appeals. The governor appointed the nine-member committee, who overturned CPS’s denial of the charter school.
The school will essentially act as its own district, Ucan said, and receive per-student funding from the state.
In the future, he said the company is looking to build more schools in the city, and possibly return to the Lincoln Square community.
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