New Regional Gifted Center Opens on Chicago’s West Side

Morton School of Excellence opens its doors to its first class next fall.

For the first time ever, parents of gifted children near Chicago’s west side will have a school dedicated to helping kids thrive in a program geared to meet their individualized needs when the Morton School of Excellence opens its doors to the first kindergarten class next fall.

The Regional Gifted Center builds on what Principal Peggie Burnett-Wise and her team of teachers have created for students in the East Garfield Park neighborhood PreK-8 school since she became principal eight years ago. The center also fills a glaring, unmet need for parents near the west side whose children are academically advanced but had no options available close by to help them.

“We’re diverse in our staff, we’re diverse in our experiences, we’re diverse in our backgrounds, we are committed to equity,” Burnett-Wise says. “We’re all about providing the absolute best that we can provide to students on the west side of Chicago and now throughout Chicago.”

Morton has 30 slots open in the fall for gifted kindergartners. The deadline for the Selective Enrollment into the Regional Gifted Center is Jan. 8, 2021. Visit go.cps.edu/elementary-school/apply to complete the Elementary School Application. Contact Rhonda Harris-Scott, M.Ed., at rmharrisscott@cps.edu if you have any questions.

“As a parent, this is the environment and program that I would want my child in. I think it’s a great opportunity to be a part of something that is really unique, different and outstanding,” says Burnett-Wise, who has a 3-year-old.

Three reasons to consider Morton

As parents consider a school for the fall, Burnett-Wise says three key educational components make the Morton School of Excellence stand out.

One is the stability in staff. “When you have a core group of people who are committed to children, that’s the type of stability parents would want for their child, because that speaks volumes about how that school is run and how the people that work there feel about the community, the children and the leadership,” she says. Her team has been together at least four years.

Morton also offers a beautiful facility that is centrally located, giving options to families in the South Loop, west side and nearby neighborhoods. It recently completed a $1.5 million makeover that includes a new play yard with learning garden and outdoor classroom surrounded by native plants, as well as a new soccer field.

Third, the center offers project-based personalized learning with a staff committed to working with parents to help their child meet individualized goals. In addition, kindergarten students in the center will begin learning a foreign language.

“Morton is such a welcoming place to be,” says Julie Heintzelman, who will be the lead teacher in the new gifted center. “The teachers love being there, the students love being there. We’ve been really intentional the last few years in making it a calm, quiet, nurturing, friendly environment, making it a place to feel heard and safe to explore, making Morton feel like home.”

How to help your gifted child

Speaking of home, Heintzelman says there is plenty parents can do to help encourage their child.

1. Build on whatever they are interested in. Gifted children often are fixated on a topic, so Heintzelman suggests parents encourage that interest and allow for opportunities to explore it more deeply, including books from the library and virtual field trips online. “Expose them to as many things as possible that will spark their creativity,” Heintzelman says.

2. Care for their social-emotional needs. Beyond feeding the academic side of things, Burnett-Wise says children with advance academic potential need many opportunities to play and talk about their feelings.

3. Give them a lot of opportunities to explore. “Provide them the opportunity to use their imagination and give them the opportunity to talk to you about anything that comes to their mind,” Burnett-Wise says. Heintzelman also suggests exposing them to a lot of different choices — such as music, movement, dancing, singing and art — that allow them to be creative while also learning problem solving.

Morton School of Excellence is located at 431 N. Troy St. in East Garfield Park.
For more information, visit mortonschool.org.

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