Elise Burks, ChiArts parent

Recent news reports have made it public that the Chicago High School for Performing Arts, known as ChiArts High School, could move from its current South Side location to a Humboldt Park/Ukrainian Village location on the other side of town.

CPS says any talk of such a move is premature, but it appears the plans are pretty much solidified and will happen before the start of the next school year. The media has made it a point to publicize this move because it involves another school–Lafayette, one of 49 that closed—and the “promises” that are being broken regarding the occupancy of closed schools. (CPS had promised that closed neighborhood schools would not be turned over to charters.)

What I have not noticed in the media is any mention of the apparent “broken promises” being made to our children, the children on the “lower income” South Side of Chicago.

My family has lived on the South Side for well over 10 years now and I had dreamed of being able to send my daughter to a school such as ChiArts, which would enable her to not only expand and grow in terms of education but also allow her to get top-notch training in musical theater. Her dream is to one day perform as Elphaba on Broadway in “Wicked.”

Now, my daughter is on the road to that dream. She is a freshman at ChiArts and feels like she finally “fits in” with her new group of friends. They are all just as immersed in the arts as she is.

But what now?  What happens to them if this move takes place?

Our children on the South Side, who need a school such as ChiArts, will now most likely be displaced, just like the students from closed schools. With this move, students will be left out because they will not have the transportation or the means to travel to ChiArts’ new location.

Was this a purposeful choice? Is CPS trying to change the demographics of the school? Because I can only see a certain group of students—black students from the South Side whose families don’t have financial means—that will be affected by this move. I’m guessing CPS did not care to take this idea into consideration before they decided to move the school further to the Northwest Side instead of the choosing the other, more centrally located option that had been in the works for years—a location at Malcolm X College.

So my question is “When will it end”? When will our children on the South Side be afforded the same rights to a high-quality education as the children up north or on the Gold Coast or in Lincoln Park? When will our children be held in high regard when it comes to their education and nurturing their abilities? Why do all of our children need to be forced to go to schools that require clear backpacks and metal detectors because their families don’t have the financial means to move or provide transportation to a better area? Don’t the children on the South Side need a performing arts high school just as much as the children whose parents can afford to send them to Chicago Academy for the Arts, a private school that is the only other performing arts high school in the city and that happens to be as expensive as most City Colleges?

My daughter and many other South Side children will now be forced to move into schools that do not have the same environment and culture that they have become accustomed to at ChiArts. That will only ensure problems for our children’s futures.

So many of our children get forgotten about and this move cannot be one of those times.

I call on other parents and community stakeholders to come together and shine a light on this decision that I believe is an injustice.

I am asking CPS to change its mind because our children will suffer from this decision. The fact that it was all done in secrecy makes it even worse

Elise Burks

Parent, Chicago High School for Performing Arts

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