CPS confirms NTA boundaries, criticized by overlooked areas

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Chicago Public Schools announced the boundaries for its hotly contested new South Loop high school Thursday, spurring criticism from communities excluded from the map.

The announcement — reflecting minimal changes from the draft proposal in January designates boundaries of students entitled to attend the high school, which will open in fall of 2019 to replace the current National Teachers Academy elementary school.

Current NTA students will move to South Loop Elementary, which will receive a new annex to alleviate overcrowding.

“It’s a bad investment for those of us who pay a lot of taxes,” said Cathy Young Clayton, mother of two South Loop students. “It’s a bad investment that we’re constantly being pitted against each other as communities.”

South Loop is one of six elementary schools included in the proximity area, alongside NTA, John B Drake, John Charles Haines, Robert Healy and James Ward Elementary Schools.

The boundaries also include proximity (preference) areas, designating applicants who will be granted preference if there is sufficient capacity. Vocal critics included members of the GAP community, which lies on the boundaries’ southeast corner and includes Pershing Elementary School, one of three in the proximity area.

“My students deserve to be in the attendance area to keep them closer to home and to keep them from having to travel hours to get to other quality schools,” said Pershing principal Safurat Giwa.

Lauren Stansell, a GAP community member, said she did not want to see children dealing with “an unimaginable level of stress” just to get into high school, like she did.

“I was more worried about getting into high school than I was college because of how competitive these high schools are,” Stansell said.

Stansell said it was unfair for the boundaries to extend as far north as the Chicago River without including the Pershing boundaries, which are closer.

Opponents of the boundaries have condemned the NTA closure as discriminatory against black and low-income students, who make up the majority of NTA’s current body.

In June, parents filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging that CPS is “bowing to pressure from wealthy interests” and “disproportionately burdening” black students.

Speakers from the Chinatown area largely spoke in favor of the boundaries, and many students say it is convenient for students to be able to attend a nearby high school.

“I’m super glad there will be a new high school around the areas of Chinatown, Bridgeport and everyone else that is convenient to many parents and students,” Jeffrey Ng said.