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Talman School Parents Look for Solutions to Overcrowding – CPS Mum on Matter

An architect's rendering of Brighton Park II school from the Chicago Planning Commission.

Parents at Talman Elementary in Gage Park look just over a mile away to a CPS school under construction and see a potential solution to their overcrowding problem.

The new school, tentatively named Brighton Park II Elementary, is anticipated to open in fall 2012, according to the Public Building Commission of Chicago.

For parents at Talman, seeing the new building is bittersweet.

“We do so much with so little,” said Reyna Castelan, a parent at Talman. Castelan’s two sons attend Talman—one in the pre-K program, and the other in fourth grade—and as a volunteer in the Parent Mentor program, Castelan sees firsthand the effects of overcrowding.

“Right now, art is held in the gym. [The students] take some exams in the hallways,” said Castelan.

She explained to the Chicago Board of Education at its Sept. 28 meeting that students have to wait a long time for everything in such a crowded building, even to use the bathrooms.

Talman, which serves students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, was set up in 2002 to ease overcrowding in nearby CPS schools. It occupies the building of former parochial school, St. Clare of Montefalco, on South Talman Avenue.

But Talman itself is now overcrowded. Even with only 376 students, the small building is packed.

Ideally, Brighton Park II, should help the overcrowding situation, with room for a minimum of 900 students and modern facilities for gym, art, and music, according to the Chicago Public Building Commission.

CPS has been vague about what the presence Brighton Park II will mean for the other neighborhood schools in the area, said Sarah Mesick, a community organizer with the Southwest Organizing Project.

“They’ve listened to us, but as of now, they haven’t done anything,” said Castelan.

Talman parents are concerned that while the new school flourishes, their students and facilities will continue to be cramped.

Castelan and Mesick told the Chicago Board of Education Wednesday at its monthly meeting, they believe Talman deserves to be in the new building.

At a school where nearly all students qualify for free lunch, Talman students have increased test scores in reading and math by about 20 percent during the last school year, according to the CPS 2010 school report card, with 76 percent of students meeting or exceeding overall state standards, up from 67 percent the previous year.

Recently appointed Chicago Board of Education president David Vitale acknowledged the struggles of overcrowded schools, but offered no concrete information about the future for Talman.

CPS could not be reached for comment.

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