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  • Kandie Alter

    Want to make your community better? Consider your neighborhood school

    A thriving public neighborhood school is one of the biggest drivers in making a community great.

    Every spring on NPN we see the frenzy around trying to decide whether to take a spot at Awesome Elementary School or gamble on the wait list for Super Awesome Elementary School. Many of us elect to skip the CPS maze altogether and seek out the best private school option. While I don't intend to deprive anyone of all that fun, I just want to make a plea to anyone preparing for the next school year to consider your CPS neighborhood public school. 

    It's easy to follow discussions on the NPN forum about school applications and individual schools and draw the conclusion that there are only a few good options for educating our kids. There are so many little neighborhood school gems that barely get airtime on this site and one of them may be walking distance from your home. Last year I posted a question about my neighborhood school, New Field in Rogers Park, and literally had zero responses from NPN members. I also looked on the Great Schools site and saw nothing. So I decided to visit and absolutely fell in love with this amazing school that was on no one's radar.

    We've since gotten really involved with a beautiful school community and my son is thriving, loves school, and has a classroom experience that is every bit as great as the pricey private school he attended. I wish someone had suggested to me what I'm asking of you: if you're currently fretting about what to do about school consider your neighborhood public school, too. 

    Opting out of your neighborhood school has a real impact on that school. Funding is driven by enrollment—your child brings what is likely a substantial per-pupil dollar amount to whatever public school he or she attends. An overwhelming majority of CPS schools lost enrollment last year resulting in reduction of resources and for some, the threat of underutilization and closure. A school's success is driven, in large part, by the community that rallies around it. A supportive and engaged parent group and LSC means the world to administrators, teachers and students alike. And a thriving public neighborhood school is one of the biggest drivers in making a community great!

    I fully support anyone making the choice that's best for their children and family. I know there are religious reasons, special needs and other important considerations that drive where you send your kids to school. But if you're weighing your options, please make sure you pay your local neighborhood school a visit, talk to your neighbors who have children attending, sit in on an LSC meeting. Please to go forward fully informed.

    You may find your own little neighborhood school gem and have a big impact on that school community!

    This article first appeared as a post in the NPN discussion forum. Become an NPN member to join conversations Chicago parents are having about school choice, parenting, relationships and more!

    Related articles:

    How to apply to a CPS school in 5 easy steps

    What to expect from CPS parent notification letters

    You will find the right school for your child

    Kandie Alter

    Photo: Lucelia Ribeiro/Flickr

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