Boarding schools proposed for CPS

March 14, 2008 3:28:40 PM PDT
Chicago Public Schools are considering some bold ideas to help students at risk. CEO Arnie Duncan wants a boarding school in the city to provide children with a safe place to learn.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan says there are over 9,000 homeless students in the system. He is proposing that by the year 2009 Chicago will have the first public boarding school available to house and educated many of these students. The schools will also be made available to students living in difficult conditions. The plan is still in its infant stages.

The homeless population is Chicago is growing. Many affected are Chicago Public Schools students. In Uptown, at the McCutcheon Elementary School, over 80 students are homeless. Arne Duncan, CEO of CPS, wants to launch a residential program by 2009.

The proposed program would include public boarding schools where homeless children and children from dysfunctional homes could find safety.

"I think this is a hugely important opportunity for children to have access to, and it's always interesting to me that the children of the wealthy out east have been sending their children to boarding school for decades. It was good enough for children of the wealthy out east, it ought to be good enough for children on the South and West side of Chicago," said Duncan.

School officials are still trying to work out the details of the plan.

"We have students of great need in the city of Chicago. This, along with other models we're looking at, will help the students with the greatest need. It shouldn't matter the color of your skin or the background of your family. You should have great options in the Chicago public school system," said Josh Edelman, CPS public boarding schools.

Illinois already has one residential school, the Illinois Math and Science Academy, a state-funded college prep high school for gifted students. Duncan says the district hopes to launch a pilot program by September, 2009, to be operated by North Lawndale College Prep working to create an off-site residential dormitory.

"I think we need to have students 24 hours a day. There are some students that home is so tough, or frankly nonexistent, that whatever we're trying to do during the school day gets nullified. So we need to create these residential options. Families elect to do this. This isn't something you mandate or dictate, but you have families, you have parents who want the best for their children," said Duncan.

Arne Duncan says they are committed to this and it will happen. They are still working through details of the plan and it is not clear if the district or outside agencies, or both, will run the boarding schools.

Duncan added that it will cost between $25,000-to-$35,000 per student, but that we should not put a cost on saving a life; it would cost more not to help these children in the long run.