STEM magnet school opens with longer hours in Little Italy

September 6, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Parents in the neighborhood have been fighting for a new school for years. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. It's an intentionally economically diverse K-3 magnet school that accepts 40-percent local kids. The rest come via city-wide lottery.

"It seems like CPS is finally getting the message," Mike Kelly, parent, said.

"I think kids working with kids of different nationalities, different socio-economic backgrounds is great. They get to experience something other than what they're accustomed to experiencing," Principal Maria McManus said.

"Are we 100-percent sure this is right? No, not right now but we'll give it a shot... We believe in the program," said Kelly.

"First day jitters aren't just for students. Parents and teachers are also experiencing them because this is very much a program in flux. For example, they just learned last week that the school day will be extended by 90 minutes a day.

"We're not going to really compromise our daughter's future based on CPS planning, which is the hardest part, and seemingly they don't have all their ducks in a row," Kelly said.

But parents like the Kellys like what they see so far. STEM is one of just three schools where teachers accepted a 2-percent raise in exchange for a longer school day.

"It just gives us the time to meet kids' needs, take the time to meet kids' needs individually," Lindsay McGrane, teacher, said.

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