The neighborhood school


The school above is less than three blocks away from where I live. It takes less than ten minutes to walk to, and every day my kids both go there in the morning. But they don’t actually take any classes there.

Chalk this up to the vagaries of the public school system here in Chicago. There are magnet schools, and classical schools, and regional gifted schools, and academic centers, and a host of avenues available for parents and their children to explore. But neighborhood schools, such as this one, are generally not considered to be too much of an option in most parts of the city

A neighborhood school can serve as an anchor for a community. That’s the general idea, at least. But with so many parents looking to go anywhere but the neighborhood school, they don’t really reach that potential.

That isn’t to say that nothing of value goes on in these schools. I have no doubt that there are fine teachers, administrators, and students at this school and a hundred others around the city. It’s just that I’m content to think that from afar, without really having to find out for myself.

The extent of my children’s time at their neighborhood school is waiting for a bus there in the morning, to take them to the schools that they attend instead of the neighborhood school. If you live more than a mile and a half from a magnet school, but less than six miles away, the bus comes to pick the kids up and take them to their non-neighborhood school. And then, when the day is over, they get on the bus to take them back to what would–in a different world–be their own neighborhood school.

While I’ve been involved with this system for many years, I’ve never given it too much thought before. There’s something to this system that feels like a game, and my family and I will be playing it for another ten years or so. But barring something unforeseen, the one place that it won’t play out is at the school closest to my house. Welcome to life in Chicago.

2 thoughts on “The neighborhood school

  1. I wonder if you’ve heard of the book “How to Walk to School,” a Chicago story about a neighborhood school renaissance? It’s inspired a few parent groups in Baltimore to work to revive their neighborhood schools.

    1. Thanks for reading. If the book is about Nettlehorst Elementary School on the North Side, I think I have. I actually lived in that neighborhood once, many years ago, and wish that I still did. It’s a great example of what can happen when people put their minds to it. All the best to you.

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