Recently, an article in Crain’s Chicago Business announced that Austin High School, currently undergoing major administrative and curricular changes to coincide with its September 2006 re-opening, was going to be the site of a manufacturing academy in the new “schools within a school” format.
The report stood in contrast to a recent story in Austin Weekly stating that the process of submitting proposals for new schools to the Transit Advisory Committee would not be completed until Aug. 19, at which time, the committee will narrow the dozen or so, proposals to around four and submit them to CPS Superintendent Arne Duncan.
Duncan is expected to then choose the proposals that he views as the most beneficial and submit his recommendation to the Board of Education in October, beginning the process of establishing the new format of the Renaissance 2010 school reorganization.
James Deanes, officer of school and community affairs for CPS, set the record straight about the story.
“Well, I can tell you for a fact that the story was incorrect,” said Deanes. “Maybe a journalist heard a proposal and ran with it. I’m not sure, but I know that we are still receiving proposals now and will be until August 19th.”
The TAC has received approximately seven detailed proposals for which small schools will eventually be included in the Austin High School building, and the committee expects several more to trickle in as Friday rapidly approaches.
One of the proposals expected to be heavily considered is from the South Austin Coalition. Their proposal would make AHS a college prep school teaching basic college courses such as math, English and science with focuses on careers that are in high demand such as pharmacy technician and mental health worker.
Additionally, SAC wants to give students the option to choose community organizing”their own area of expertise”as a potential field of study.
“I think if we give the young people the option to learn the ins-and-outs of organizing rallies, fairs and political meetings within the confines of the academic environment, it can have a galvanizing effect on both the schools and the neighborhood,” said Bob Vondrasek, executive director of SAC.
Last year, members of SAC protested in front of the Board of Education office at 125 S. Clark, voicing their disapproval with the conversion of AHS into a Renaissance 2010 project.
The protest failed, but members of SAC are hoping to still have an impact on the future of AHS by taking a “can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach.
“Building a quality school is not rocket science,” said Vondrasek. “You need good teachers, a dedicated principal, access to up-to-date technology and textbooks that are not outdated. It is that simple. We hope to have our proposal in by Friday and hope that it is chosen. It would have a tremendous impact on the community, no question.”
Austin High School is the latest school from the West Side to be a part of the city’s Renaissance 2010 program. The program shutters existing schools considered underachieving and re-opens them as 2-3 small schools within the same building, each school establishing its own academic curricula.