This week MPS held a series of public sessions at schools around the city as part of its long-range facilities plan, which the administration plans to bring to the school board in November.
Turnouts at most schools ranged from about 20 to about 40, with word that Washington High School’s event last night drew the smallest crowd. Other events were held Monday evening at South Division, Morse Marshall and Riverside.
But last night’s meeting at Reagan High on the South Side was unlike any of the others. The school’s cafeteria was packed and estimates put the number of people on hand at around 300.
The crowd was a mix of Reagan staff, students and parents and community members, who listened to a presentation by DeJong and Richter, the firm conducting research for the plan, and then filled out questionnaires asking for opinions on topics ranging from class size to importance of the age of a school building.
The turnout was large at the school because many people had apparently hoped to speak out about the future of Reagan at its current location on South 20th Street, a few blocks south of Layton Avenue, at the meeting.
But there was no public testimony at any of this week’s meetings. There will be a public testimony session held at Reagan on Tuesday, Oct. 4.
On that night, you can expect some from the school community to come out to say that Reagan, an International Baccalaureate school, needs more space. It is currently housed in the former Sholes Middle School and the building, shared with another program, doesn’t allow this popular program to grow.
Architecturally, the building is arguably ill-suited to a high school. Looking at the super narrow lockers, for example, it’s hard to imagine a high school student could get a jacket in there, much less the kind of books they carry.
Meanwhile, some nearby residents at last night’s meeting showed me the kinds of materials that are being left in their mailboxes by anonymous neighbors. Some are encouraging them to speak out to keep Reagan in the building because it’s been a good neighbor.
Other, more ominous flyers, claim that MPS is planning to move Reagan out and move “juvenile delinquents” and “terrorists in training” into the building.
That mirrors rumors in Bay View about the empty Dover School building. Dover was moved into the former Fritsche Middle School, a building it shares with Tippecanoe, which also vacated its Bay View-area building in June.
MPS spokesperson Roseann St. Aubin told me last night that there are no such plans for either building.