Despite parent opposition, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans Tuesday to turn Logan Square's Ames Middle School into a military academy next school year.
plan, supported by Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th), would bring Marine
Military Academy High School, currently located at 145 S. Campbell Ave.,
to Ames, 1920 N. Hamlin Ave.
As part of the proposal, the school
would expand from 7th grade to 12th grade and would allow Marine Militray School's student population to grow by 750 additional seats. At the moment, Marine is co-located on the
West Side with Phoenix Military Academy, which would see 600 extra seats
open up once Marine moves.
On Tuesday, the mayor said he is
expanding the number of military seats in the school district by 50 percent because there are currently more than six applicants for every available
military seat. According to the mayor's office, Ames was chosen to
house the school because it has a low level three academic rating
and has consistently been 50 percent underutilized.
first submitted the conversion proposal to the Chicago Board of
Education, and for the past two years, a number of Ames parents and Logan Square
residents have expressed outrage about losing their neighborhood school and the lack of public input that has been gathered regarding the plan.
learning of the mayor's recent announcement, the Logan Square
Neighborhood Association, which is opposed to the conversion, said
Marine Military School utilizes only 70 percent of its current space, according to the school's utilization report.
There are also other schools in the area that would be more appropriate to house Marine Military, according to the community group. For example, nearby schools Alexander von Humboldt Elementary and Jean D. Lafayette Elementary were part of the district's recent round of school closings and currently sit empty.
neighborhood activists also argue that more Ames students met or exceeded
standards in reading, math and science in 2012 than students at Marine Military.
The group also pointed out that the military school graduated just 56.5 percent of
the 122 students who entered as freshmen in 2010, which is less than the
citywide average. Among other concerns, community members worry that a selective military school at Ames would force out
special needs students.
The mayor says all current 7th and 8th graders at Ames can stay at the school next year if they choose to do so.
They can also continue to pick from general education courses and
electives. The school is expected to see new science and computer labs
as well as classrooms for art and music put in place over the summer. The school's capital investments are expected to be paid for with $7 million in tax increment
financing (TIF) funds.
Back in December, Logan Square parents were
relieved to hear Chicago Board of Education President David Vitale say
in a board meeting that, “There are no plans to change Ames Middle
School into a military academy.”
More recently, Maldonado
presented a petition to the school board in April with 1,100 signatures in
favor of having Marine Military come into the community, leading Vitale to say
that he looked forward to working with the alderman on the project.
The Logan Square Neighborhood Association conducted a community survey last November and found that 87.4 percent of the 357 respondents did not want a military high school at Ames. The organization plans to do a follow-up survey of Ames parents on the proposed conversion in the next two weeks.
In a statement, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis called the conversion proposal "another betrayal of children by Mayor Emanuel and his appointed school board."
added insult to injury is that the school board president said less
than a year ago that there were no plans to bring this militarization
experiment to a school that is already succeeding," Lewis continued. "We don’t know why the alderman has been pushing something so strongly
opposed by his community, or who it will benefit, but that certainly
isn’t the students.”
The Chicago Board of Education still has to sign off on the plan.