School expo helps parents shape kids' futures

January 28, 2012 3:19:21 PM PST
Thousands of Chicago families visited Soldier Field Saturday to try and improve their child's future. It was the fifth-annual New Schools Expo, a chance for parents to learn about quality educational options for their children.

How does a parent choose the right school for their child?

"What's important to me is the curriculum, the expertise of the teachers," said parent Antoinette Peterson. "All of those things rank high in my book."

Making the right choice can help shape their development.

That's why the New Schools Expo keeps growing, and why Peterson is back for the second year in a row.

"With there being more schools here this year, I have a wider selection to choose from, and just try to figure out what's out there as far as the education that does not cost me," she said.

Representatives from more than 100 Chicago schools were at Soldier Field with displays, goodie bags, flyers, and tons of information.

The information was helpful to Rebecca Tyler, who is looking to find a new school for her sons.

"The school they are going to everyday, I have a problem," Tyler said. "I am at the school 24-7. I need something for my kids, better than fighting all day."

What started out as just a few hundred people, turned into a crowd of close to 8,000.

At Soldier Field, some of the city's newest and best public and charter schools were trying to appeal to families.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard hopes the expo get parents more involved.

"They don't have to go to a school that's failing," Brizard said. "There are tremendous amounts of choices in the city, and they should take advantage of them."

Workshops were also available for parents on how to select the right school. Parents could even apply to a school of choice.

Brizard said it's a large step in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to be done.

"We're looking at creating what we know the city is asking for -- every neighborhood having a great school that parents can access," he said.

Organizers say the expo is not pitting charter schools against traditional public schools, even though the demand for a spot in a charter school is growing fast.

CPS approved 12 new charter schools just last month.

"It's about parental choice," Brizard said. "You know, healthy competition is a good thing. Parents should be able to choose where they want to send their children."