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South Loop Pushes for Neighborhood High School

Many families living in the South Loop struggle with the issue of not having a suitable neighborhood high school for their children. Litigation attorney and community leader John Jacoby faces the same problem with his youngest daughter who next year will be a freshman in high school.

Having lived in Chicago for more than 20 years, Jacoby has been a direct witness to all of the up and coming changes in the South Loop. However, one of the most important things that have not changed is the option for an academically successful neighborhood high school. As of now, Phillips Academy is the only neighborhood high school available to Jacoby’s daughter, Kyra. Located in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, it falls academically short with a graduation rate of 61 percent, according to the Chicago Public Schools website.

“Our neighborhood high school is not an option,” Jacoby said.

The graduation rate at Phillips Academy is lower than the Illinois state average of 88 percent. It’s no wonder parents are scrambling to find a better high school for their children, Jacoby said.

Jacoby’s oldest daughter, Renee, is now a senior at Jones College Prep Academy located in the Printer’s Row neighborhood in downtown Chicago. In order to be accepted to this high school, a student has to have straight A’s and test into the 99th percentile, Jacoby said.

As a parent, Jacoby struggles with this because he is already paying a lot in property taxes, which he thinks will only increase.  If Jacoby needs to pay for his daughter to attend a suitable private high school, he fears the expense may cut into her college fund.

Not only is the lack of a neighborhood public high school effecting these children’s education, it is also robbing them of what a high school experience should be, Jacoby said.

“A neighborhood that doesn’t have a neighborhood high school; is not a neighborhood,” Jacoby said.

Another South Loop resident, Nicole Willis, 43, once had the same concerns for her 20-year-old son. Living in the South Loop for the past ten years, Willis agrees that the South Loop is in need of a better public high school. Not having high enough test scores to attend Jones College Prep Academy, Willis had to send her oldest child to a private school.

“I sent him to Saint Ignatius and, oh yeah I had to pay for that,” Willis said. Saint Ignatius is located in a West side neighborhood in Chicago, roughly two miles from the South Loop.

Chicago resident and father of eight, Gregory Johnson, agreed that the South Loop should have a suitable high school so children don’t have to commute every day. Because of this commute, Johnson believes that having children bounce around to different high schools results in a lack of stability.

“It’s the same thing as moving a lot,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t give them anything to hold on to in terms of friendship.”

Three of his eight children are currently in high school. Johnson made it clear that he would prefer that his children grow up with the same peer group.

“There is nothing like growing up with people that you’ve known all your life,” Johnson said. “I still hang out with my 8th grade graduation class.”

There have been many missed opportunities for a high school to be built in the South Loop, Johnson said. “Instead of building a lot of parking garages, they can find a spot to build a school.”

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