One of Chicago’s more successful public schools sits just a stone’s throw from the new Barneys store in theGold Coast.
Ogden Elementary is the type of place where well-heeled parents pick up
their offspring in luxury cars, with many of the children destined for
a full slate of after-school activities to foster their development.
the aging school at 24 W. Walton St. will temporarily close next month
while it gets a nearly $60 million makeover, and exactly where the 400
or so kindergarten through 4th-grade students will learn while the hard
hats go to work has become quite a controversy in the swanky
So far, Chicago Public Schools
officials have narrowed the choices to two school buildings, both near
the former Cabrini-Green housing complex. Though the Ogden students
will have their temporary home all to themselves, moving them to the
Cabrini area — where only three of the original buildings remain —
has set off a dispute touching on everything from transportation costs
to class and race.
“I am not sending my child there,” said
Michelle Herman, mother of two Ogden students, one of whom would be
affected by the move. “That is directly across the street from the
“The reason I pay so much money to live in this area is because [Ogden] is the school my kids go to,” she added.
Ogden students would be dealing more with Cabrini’s notorious
reputation than the present reality of a rapidly gentrifying area,
parents have not been shy about voicing their anger. Some say they’ve
sent letters and placed calls to new schools CEO Ron Huberman, while
others are trying to use “connections” to see if something can be done
about the move.
That’s right. You pay a lot of money for your kids to go to a school so wealthy it’s getting moved TEMPORARILY so you can build another wealthy school in its place. You pay a lot of money for that privilege and you know, it’s not even so much I want to deny it to you as I want you to shut the hell UP about it. Good God, do you listen to yourself? Somewhere in the lessons you learned about being a human being, lady, humility got missed.
I want to take you by the ear and drag you down 20 miles south to see schools with holes in the ceilings and chains on the doors with kidsjust as nice as yours, just as deserving as yours, just as blameless as yours trying to learn with parkas on because the boilers don’t work. And I’d like you to explain to those kids how you pay a lot of money to live where you live. Not because I think they’ll understand or give a good goddamn about you, but because I want to see your face when you do it. Good Lord. Be as rich as you want to be, far as I’m concerned, I’m not going to take your money away, but can you have the marginal good sense not to bitch in public that you might have to rub up against somebody your country club wouldn’t approve as a member?
I’d like to call this racism (the Cabrini-Green area is historically black, the parents pictured in the story are white) but I don’t think it’s even that easy. I covered these stories for years; it’s never just race. It’s also the idea that poverty is catching, that people in “other” neighborhoods aren’t people and wouldn’t give you directions or loan you a cup of sugar or have lives anything like yours, that segregation is the answer to keeping you safe, that there is a way to wall yourself off from the problems of the world just by locking the doors of your minivan as you drive through “their” streets. It’s the idea that crime is something that happens to other people; you move out to a rich suburb to get away from everything and everyone who could hurt you and then some wealthy mother smothers her children in their beds and everybody says, “This is such a nice community,” confused and frightened:I thought we were safe here. It’s about the idea that location equals immunity from fear.
The public school system in Illinois is joke and the one in Chicago more so; schools for the rich are palaces and those for the poor are demilitarized zones and it’s been that way since the bottoming out of the manufacturing base in the late 1970s and it’s only getting worse now as the state budget crunch is passed on to municipalities. Cabrini-Green isn’t the worst of it; anyway that neighborhood now is really nice. My dad’s friend keeps a store there and we’ve been watching it change while we visited D over the years; from coke deals out in the open around the corner (my first childhood education in the reality of drugs of any kind) to now a billion Starbucks shops and pedestrian traffic that isn’t wearing plastic high heels. Anywhere I can’t afford the rent is nice enough to put a school, in my opinion, so the argument is bullshit on its face.
But the argument isn’t the point. The point is we’ve divided up this city, this country even, into safe areas and danger zones so real in our minds they might as well be marked out with concrete walls topped with barbed wire, and on my side I’m okay and on your side you’re not and that’s all right by me? Hell no, that’s not all right by me and it shouldn’t be by you as well.
landscape, given the number of school closings in recent years.
though, isn’t being permanently closed because of low performance or
declining enrollment. Instead, the district is building a
state-of-the-art facility replete with underground parking.
I clicked over to the comments thinking it was gonna be a hellhole of “no nooooooo no noooo icky poor kids get away here’s what I hate about black people my kids deserve to have things your kids are crackheads” but for once, newspaper commenters for the win:
relocated to, to accommodate Ogden. Sadly, something always stinks with
Boo Hoo, let’s give them special status because they are rich. Let them
hire private guards for their kids with all their money or home school
I pay plenty of tax $$$$ and have no kids in CPS, do you want to give me a refund?
an underground parking garage? at an elementary school? What, for the limo and driver to wait in?
CPS, explain. I want use of that parking when I come downtown.
I am a City taxpayer and do not have a decent school in my
neighborhood! The kids are in mobile units due to overcrowding. Are we
getting a new facility with underground parking? Heck no! I pay double
as I pay to send my children to a private school with no overcrowding
and a real building…not a mobile unit.
Huberman is making changes where the money is…not where it counts to the children!
God forbid these kids see others live. It might interfere with their feelings of entitlement.