Move or improve the school?
Wednesday, January 01, 2003
Parents fix Chicago public school
Despite years of Chicago school reform, many Chicago parents still debate the same questions once the kids hit school age: Can we afford private school in the city or do we have to move to the suburbs?
A group of parents in the Lakeview neighborhood wanted to give themselves another option. They wanted the local public school to be a great place that would serve their children well. About 100 neighborhood residents, most of them moms of pre-schoolers, formed the Nettlehorst School Parent's Co-op this summer. In the span of a typical soccer season, the group raised more than $60,000 and improved an entire public school.
"You can't do one thing at a time. You have to do it in a wholesale way. You have to fix everything,"says Jacqueline Edelberg, who founded the co-op along with Nicole Wagner.
And they plan to fix everything. From filling the library with books to making the exterior a more inviting place, the parents have a lengthy wish list of things that need to be improved. With goods and services donated by local merchants and the time and talents of co-op members, the group already has revamped the media center to include an 8-foot "reading sailboat"and private "reading tub."Julia Goldman, who painted the Lincoln Park Zoo African Journey exhibit, made an exquisite mural outside the cafeteria of the "land and sea pass-through."The Steppenwolf Theater-Arts Exchange, Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Charlie Trotter's also are enlisted to enrich the curriculum.
It's all a part of a grand plan to change the school as well as the neighborhood perception of it. After a series of interim principals, the regional magnet school developed a reputation for instability, says Edelberg, mother of Maya, 4, and Zachary, 2, both future Nettlehorst students. She is hoping that the support will restore Nettlehorst's credibility and make it a magnet for neighborhood children. "We hope to fill up two pre-school classes next year and work through the grades from the bottom up,"says Wagner, mother of Chloe, 2½.
The school will host an open house from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 11 to showcase the renovations. For more detailed information, call the school, (773) 534-5597.
-- Laura Distler