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MEETING1

Chris Bentley/MEDILL

Charter school supporters march around Clark Street on Wednesday morning.

 


Seven new charter schools approved amid chaotic CPS session

by Lauren Chooljian
Jan 26, 2011


MEETING2

Lauren Chooljian/MEDILL

Protesters block the sidewalks outside of CPS headquarters.     
 

Hours before the CPS meeting even started on Wednesday morning, large crowds gathered outside 125 S. Clark St.

More than 100 of them were registered to speak at the public session of the meeting, and hundreds more were on hand, on both sides of the issue: charter schools.

Although the count on how many varied depending on who was asked, an organizer of charter school supporters, Andrew Broy, had a way to offer a head count.

“We brought many parents along in order to speak in support of this proposal. Many of them are in overflow today,” Broy said. “But we brought 800 scarves and ran out at 9, which means we had about 1,000 parents here.”

The scarves, bright yellow, were worn by many supporters to make it clear which side they were on. But while the hundreds of charter supporters were making a large, and certainly bright, impression, the opposition also could not be ignored.

Nearly 70 students, parents and teachers of non-chartered public schools held signs and chanted, “enough is enough,” calling for more resources to be allotted to struggling schools, rather than funding new charter schools.

The meeting was delayed 30 minutes while board officials tried to accommodate all points of view.

Hours later, the board approved charter agreements for seven charter schools.

The board also adopted a breakfast in the classroom policy and a food allergy management policy.

The breakfast policy, which has been tested in some schools, mandates 10 minutes of in-classroom breakfast time every school day.

The vote Wednesday will extend the program to all schools by June 30. Breakfast items will be provided free of charge to any student. CPS logistics officer Louise Esaian said 86 percent of CPS students are eligible for free and reduced meals.

Richard Smith, CPS' director of the Office of Specialized Services, brought forward the CPS version of a food allergy management policy.

The proposal helps the district comply with a state law requiring all school districts to adopt a policy on food allergies. Smith said the policy requires parents to inform their schools if their child has an allergy or if they suspect their child may be developing allergies.