Chicago students who lack a stable home may soon take up residence in boarding schools.
Plans for a residential program for homeless teenagers at North Lawndale College Prep, a West Side charter school, are in their infancy, but behind the scenes, optimism reigns.
“We hope to do this,” said David Myers, executive director of Teen Living Programs, a group that works with homeless young people. “We look forward to doing this and we are excited about doing this.”
Teen Living Programs, Myers explained, would manage the residence in North Lawndale, providing homeless students with counseling and other services to help reunite them with their families or teach them to live on their own. “It’s 24/7 for as long as the young person needs housing or until they can become reconnected with their family or become independent,” he said.
During its two-year pilot phase, the residence would house current North Lawndale College Prep students based on housing needs. The prep school is located at 1615 S. Christiana Ave. Of North Lawndale’s approximately 400 students, an estimated six to eight percent are homeless.
Citywide, approximately 9,700 Chicago Public School students had identified themselves as homeless at the end of March. This number includes children and teens that live on the streets as well as those living in temporary foster care, shelters and transitional housing, as well as youth made homeless by their parents.
To help these students, CPS this week invited applicants to submit proposals for publicly-funded boarding schools as part of Renaissance 2010, CPS’s initiative to build 100 new schools by the year 2010.
The idea to build such schools in Chicago was conceived by Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan. If realized, Chicago could have a public boarding school as early as 2010.
“It’s an idea Arne has been thinking about for a while,” said Malon Edwards, a spokesman for Chicago Public Schools.
North Lawndale and the Teen Living Programs do not plan to submit an application to receive Renaissance 2010 funding for their residential program, said Myers, but instead will work independently of CPS.
But for both North Lawndale and CPS, issues of funding remain unclear.
Funding for the school will most likely come from a mix of public and private sources, and Myers is fairly certain Teen Living Programs will not rely solely on public funding to establish the residence.
“There’s capital funding that’s going to be needed,” he said. “And the other major funding issue is how much money can be raised from the private sector for the annual operations of the program.”
Groups applying for Renaissance 2010 funding will also have to find additional sources of income. CPS funds all students in its New Schools program equally, regardless of the type of school.
“That’s part of the reason the boarding school idea is still in early stages,” said Edwards. “We’re hoping someone will step up,” and offer funding. It’s one of the question marks we have when it comes to boarding schools.”