With Chicago Public Schools enrollment falling, the Chicago Board of Education is about to take up plans to build a new high school near Chinatown.

Nader Issa, Sarah Karp and Lauren FitzPatrick:

Does Chicago even need this school?

Until Tuesday, the Chicago Public Schools had provided little information about the proposal — not even such basic information as the location, attendance boundaries or the city’s analysis of the effects that the school would have on a school system whose enrollment has been shrinking.

Amid Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s reelection campaign, CPS had put the proposed new high school into its capital budget with little public engagement, no land secured at a proposed site and big questions about who would attend the school.

As CPS officials ask the Board of Education to approve their $70 million share of the project Wednesday on top of $50 million from the state, they have yet to make a case — beyond the clamoring from the area for a school — for whether Chinatown, the South Loop and Bridgeport’s needs to justify spending so much of the school system’s resources on a new building amid plummeting enrollment citywide.

“It’s difficult to advocate for the needs of one community and balance the needs of surrounding communities,” said Grace Chan McKibben, an advocate for the new school and head of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community. “Because Chicago is so segregated, and life in Chicago is so highly regionalized.”

Though the school set to open in 2025 also would serve students from the South Loop and Bridgeport, among the most compelling arguments for the new school has been the burgeoning Chinatown community’s desire for an educational hub. Often described as the country’s only growing Chinatown, the community recently was drawn into Chicago’s first Asian American majority ward. Home to thousands of immigrant families, the neighborhood has at least doubled in population since 2000.

Leave a Reply