By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Hyde Park parents received information about public schools from a Chicago Public Schools official and a few of their peers at the “ABCs of CPS” meeting last Wednesday hosted by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Schools Committee and the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club.
The meeting, which was geared toward parents whose young children will be starting school soon, began with a meet and greet with principals from elementary schools in Hyde Park including Bret Harte, 1556 E. 56th St.; Carnegie Regional Gifted Center, 1414 E. 61st Pl.; Kozminski, 936 E. 54th St.; Murray Language Academy, 5335 S. Kenwood Ave.; Ray, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave.; Reavis, 834 E. 50th St. and Shoesmith, 1330 E. 50th St.
Michael McGehee, CPS Burnham Park Network’s Family and Community Engagement Manager, provided an overview of the choices within CPS and the process for enrolling in each type of school. Then McGehee joined a panel that included Ray parents Michael Scott and Eva Nielson, who is also a member of the Friends of Shoesmith, and Bret Harte Parent and local school council member, Beth Herring to answer questions from parents in attendance.
McGehee explained the difference between a magnet school and an open enrollment school.
“With a magnet school if you live in the district you can go to the school but if you do not you have to apply for open enrollment,” McGehee said. “With an open enrollment school all you have to do is have proof of residency in the area and your child can attend the school.”
Scott said deciding on which school you want your child to attend begins with thinking about your family’s personal ideals.
“Our search started with the idea that we wanted to walk our kids to school,” said Scott, who said that one decision narrowed his family’s choices down to Shoesmith, Murray and Ray.
After visiting the schools and narrowing the choices down to Murray and Ray, Scott said “the fact that Ray had a full school day and recess, before it was mandated for all schools, was the deciding factor.”
Herring said being able to walk to school is a valuable part her family’s daily routine.
“You’re able to gather with neighbors and find out how to get involved with programs in all the schools in Hyde Park.”
Nielson, who in addition to having a child at Ray has one child at Leonard Magnet School in Berwyn and another at South Loop School, said she feels her children miss out on socializing with other children in the neighborhood because they don’t walk to school but her children do get a chance to connect with other students from the neighborhood who also travel outside of the school area to attend school.
Nielson also spoke to parents who had questions about testing to get their children into magnet schools and other schools that offer classes and programs for gifted students.
Children between 4th and 7th grade, who do well on the ISAT, can be tested for entrance into CPS schools and programs for gifted students. The child would have to be able to take a 20 to 30 minute exam without a parent in the room, said McGehee.
He said if the child qualifies, the family can choose from a list of schools and CPS would let the family know which school has selected the child.
“If you decide not to take the spot offered you child will go back into the system to be reconsidered for other schools,” said Nielson, who said when her two oldest children were certified as gifted students but were not accepted to Ray or Murray, she chose to send her children to magnet schools outside of the Hyde Park neighborhood.
Herring answered questions about Preschool for All and tuition-based preschool.
Preschool for All, which is offered at Bret Harte, Ray and Kozminski, is a half-day instructional program for children ages 3-5. Tuiton-based preschool, which is also offered at Ray, is a full day instructional program for children ages 3-4 that costs $11,650 per school year.