South Loop School cuts gifted program

By BEN MEYERSON, Chicago Journal, November 10, 2011
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A month after South Loop Elementary School announced it would cuts its gifted program for kindergarten, Principal Tara Shelton announced Friday night that the school is permanently cutting the entire gifted program.

South Loop School's main building, at 1212 S. Plymouth Ct., has become overcrowded and needed more space, Shelton said in an email announcing the change. But without new space to expand into, the best solution was to reduce the number of students coming into the school, she wrote.

So Shelton said she reached the conclusion with officials from Chicago Public Schools that the best option would be to remove the school's regional gifted center entirely — not just kindergarten, as originally proposed last month. The result would be more room for local students, she said.

"Although the RGC has been an attractive asset to our school in previous years, I'm confident that we will continue to thrive and excel with our dedicated parents, teachers, and community," Shelton said. "I hope you will embrace these changes and continue to make South Loop one of Chicago's schools of choice."

One grade level of the gifted program will be phased out beginning in the 2012-13 school year and for each of the next eight years, Shelton said. Each child currently in the gifted program will still graduate from South Loop School, but no new students would be admitted into the gifted program.

With roughly 28 students per class, Shelton wrote, the end result will be about 224 new seats open to kids in the community. Shelton also said that siblings of current students who live outside of the school's neighborhood boundaries will not be accepted for the 2012-13 school year and will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis after that.

"Based on the continued concern expressed by some parents about neighborhood class size, it was determined that phasing out the RGC would provide the space needed to accommodate the neighborhood growth," Shelton wrote. "This was a difficult decision to come to, but the result will be less disruptive to SLS families, children and staff than the other options and allow SLS to continue to serve K-8 with excellence."

Leslie Recht, 2nd Ward Ald. Bob Fioretti's education liaison, said she was as surprised by the announcement as anyone when it came out on Friday. She said eliminating the gifted program still doesn't really solve the overcrowding problem at South Loop.

"They didn't consult with us before they did this, and ­we don't think they've really addressed the problem," Recht said. "We've tried to work with CPS on these issues and we're not giving up."

Recht said they're trying to sit down with CPS officials to discuss the changes, and are holding out hope that the district's new facilities plan will bring an expansion for South Loop.

"Our hope is to sit down and talk to them about every facility," Recht said. "We're looking at this across the board."