West Side groups relaunch plans to open STEAM Academy – this time without merging 3 neighborhood schools

NORTH LAWNDALE — West Side educators have renewed efforts to build a state-of-the-art public science, technology, engineering, arts and math academy in North Lawndale after a year-long hiatus.

The revised North Lawndale STEAM Partnership Academy plans submitted to the district will not require the consolidation of three neighborhood schools. Consolidation was a major sticking point with some parents and teachers in 2020, leading the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council and the neighborhood’s Community Action Committee to withdraw the plan they submitted to Chicago Public Schools.

Instead of launching a STEAM neighborhood school to replace Crown Academy, Sumner Elementary and North Lawndale Community Academy, the new plan would create the STEAM Partnership Academy as a magnetic school at the old Henson Elementary, a school that closed there. has years at 1326 S. Avers Ave. Eighty percent of STEAM school students would come from the Lawndale neighborhood, while 20 percent could come from other parts of the city, organizers said.

“We are not asking any school to merge. We’re just asking for a new school,” said Betty Allen Green, head of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council’s education committee.

Now the district will review the school proposal, with the Chicago Board of Education making the final decision.

Local educators have been planning STEAM School for years as part of the neighborhood’s 2018 Quality of Life Plan, a resident-focused master plan to improve things like housing, education, and public safety. The STEAM Partnership Academy was designed to prepare students for careers in science and technology and keep families from leaving Lawndale in search of better educational opportunities for their children.

Several schools in Lawndale have closed in recent years, including Frazier Charter School. At least five neighborhood schools have also been targeted by the district as “remedial schools.”

Struggling local schools have prompted many to flee the neighborhood or send students across town to schools with more programs and resources, said Leonard Moore, chairman of the neighborhood’s Community Action Committee. At least 600 students living in Lawndale attend schools in other neighborhoods, according to the group’s research.

“We try to provide additional educational opportunities and options for children who are currently leaving,” Moore said. “We believe this is a great opportunity to have a state-of-the-art school here in North Lawndale and prepare them for the educational challenges of the future.”

The STEAM Partnership Academy would be a K-8 school with facilities designed to serve technology-oriented programs and creative learning. The school would be designed to support diverse learners and would emphasize social-emotional learning as well as restorative justice practices.

The program would emphasize design processes, industry experiences and activities, collaboration, and awareness of careers in technology. The school would have “hands-on, project-based programs” as well as strong visual and performance arts offerings, Green said.

At least 22 business, nonprofit, and academic partners have pledged to support the school’s programs and programs, including the University of Illinois at Chicago, Cinespace Film Studios, the Museum of Science and industry and People’s Gas. These partnerships will give students a springboard to careers in science, technology, and the arts by exposing them to mentorship opportunities and real-world applications for the subjects they study.

“Our children have access to people who are already working in these fields to mentor,” said Rodney Brown, director of the North Lawndale Chamber of Commerce and co-founder of the North Lawndale Community Coordinating Council.

The benefits of the STEAM Partnership Academy would go beyond just the enrolled students, Green said. The academy would serve as a STEAM hub for North Lawndale so other schools could model their curriculum and create their own technology programs. Neighborhood schools could also take advantage of any programs, mentorships and resources offered by industry partners, Green said.

“They are committed to not only being in new schools, but other schools in North Lawndale that want to be part of the STEAM hub,” Green said.

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