De-Magnetizing LaSalle To Save Lincoln

The move to turn LaSalle from a citywide magnet school into a neighborhood elementary continues to cause concern and curiosity among parents, teachers, and elected officials, with the school principal and councilwoman both coming out against the Board proposal.  Are you for, against, or just don't care about silly magnets and Lincoln Park parents?

WBEZ's Linda Lutton broke the news with a story describing the move, explained as an effort to relieve overcrowding at Lincoln -- isn't that where Brizard just moved? -- by reducing Lincoln's massive boundary (to Armitage at the South). Already more than half white -- one of just 25 such schools in CPS -- LaSalle would become even more so.

"While I admire CPS’ willingness to problem-solve, ouch, it hurts a bit to lose South Loop RGC and now a well-regarded magnet school," says CPS Obsessed, which posted Smith's letter and has nearly two dozen comments on the matter.

Says Smith:  "I disagree with this plan. First, it does not solve Lincoln’s immediate problem: there will still be overcrowding for 8+ years. Second, it continues to diminish the educational experience at Lincoln – art and music classes have been cut back, and classroom sizes have increased. Third, while many neighborhood parents would like to attend LaSalle, it makes no sense to threaten to destroy a very valuable and successful program."

A parents sent in a copy of the principal's letter to the community, objecting to the proposal (see full text below).


Dear Parents,

Yesterday we had a long LSC meeting regarding what was recommended to solve Lincoln's over-crowding problems.

This plan was articulated at Lincoln where Mr. Cawley, CPS Chief Administrative Officer, answered Lincoln's parents questions. At LaSalle, Mr. Anderson, from the Office of Portfolio of Schools, explained the plan and answered our parents' questions.

The plan recommends that:
- Current LaSalle students stay at LaSalle
- All 2012 Kindergarten siblings will be enrolled at LaSalle
- For future years, the situation for Kindergarten siblings will be re-evaluated
- LaSalle would have an attendance area within North, Armitage, Orchard, and Lake Michigan.

Mr. Anderson said that he could not answer questions about LaSalle Magnet status.
We committed to send him a list of siblings anticipated to apply to LaSalle in the next 5 years. We are going to create an electronic survey which will be sent this afternoon. We will need 100% responses in a very short time (by tomorrow) about potential siblings coming to LaSalle in the next 5 years. The LSC advocated that CPS considers committing to enroll all known siblings.

The LSC also drafted a statement "Arguments against the CPS proposal to transform LLA into a neighborhood school". This statement was read to Mr. Anderson by Mr. Hicks and will be published with the minutes as soon as the minutes are approved.

At this point, we have been told by Mr. Anderson that it was the intent of CPS to listen to both communities and gather ideas and options that would be looked at.

Please make sure to answer the survey this evening.

We will keep you informed as other developments occur. As a reminder, there is a PTA meeting today at 9 am and CPS representatives will answer questions you may have about this plan.

Warmest regards,

Elisabeth Heurtefeu Principal LaSalle Language Academy


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  • These decisions always look like last minute panic solutions, it’s like nobody’s looking ahead.
    Why didn’t they keep Sojourner Truth available. It’s just outside the south end of Lincoln’s area. It’s a beautiful school. Either Lincoln’s southern area could go there, or LaSalle could be moved there and Lincoln could have used LaSalle’s building. It’s a good spot for a magnet school, it’s just one block from a red line stop. Instead, it was given to a charter school, that could have been put anywhere in the city. It’s not like this overcrowding problem just popped up last week at Lincoln.
    Ogden is still overcrowded too, and bussing 2 grades to a different building. After going from 2 classes to 3 for each grade, the school was rebuilt for 3 classes a grade. By the time the rebuild was done, it was up to 4 or 5 classes for 4 of the grades. Could it have just been built big enough to allow a little growth? In a year or two you'll see Ogden needing more space too.
    These things seem to be set up to disrupt everyone and have parents fighting parents. It’s like the board wants to make sure we can’t work together against them

  • In reply to Anonymous:

    Both Ogden and Lincoln have out of intake area students in their citywide programs. Is the issue that caused Lincoln's enrollment to rise from 571 in 2000 to 742 in 2011 that more families in the community are chosing Lincoln over private options or is the issue citywide programs increasing at the school?

    If the problem is citywide admissions, then that is solved by reducing the number of citywide slots at these schools. I do not see the move to pull the magnet status from LaSalle at all as being a "last minute panic solution." It is part of an overall long term plan to reduce if not eliminate non-special education busing, which is very expensive. When CPS argued to get out from under the desegration decree a big part of its arguement was busing costs. I would expect Newberry to eventually also face the fate of losing magnet status.

    By way of disclosure I am a Lincoln School alumni, from a time when the social economic status of the school was different than it is now. In the early 1960s when I was attending Lincoln School there were over 800 students in attendance and yes it was very crowded which is why it was called the baby boom. If I recall correctly we had about 35 - 40 kids in each class.

    Rod Estvan

  • Another potential change: "The Illinois Senate unanimously approved on Nov. 29 a bill that will allow more local students to attend the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences (CHSAS) in Mt. Greenwood.

    "According to state Rep. Bill Cunningham (D-35th), the Illinois House also passed the bill unanimously during the fall veto session in November.

    "If signed into law by Gov. Pat Quinn before the end of the year, SB 1226 will allow the CHSAS to begin increasing its enrollment from 600 students to 720 students, according to state Sen. Ed Maloney (D-18th), the bill’s sponsor...."

  • I see the change over as last minute because CPS waited to announce this change until a day or two before magnet and SEES applications were due. Many families have already submitted their apps. As well, what about all the families who chose LaSalle because of its extra funding that provided foreign language instruction. As a neighborhood school, LaSalle will no longer receive funding for several positions. I see it as those parents got "duped" into believing they found a good option for their children and CPS changed the rules mid-education. Really, all schools should be getting extra positions because neighborhood schools are operating on a bare bones staff and next year with the longer day there simply isn't enough staff to cover the changes.

  • Alderman opposes LaSalle Language Academy plan - Chicago Sun-Times

  • Update 12-20-11: LaSalle Language Academy to remain a magnet school and new alternatives will be vetted to alleviate overcrowding at Lincoln Elementary. Letters from Brizard arrived today.

  • Thank you again for affording representatives of my office with the opportunity to meet with you at last week’s Local School Council meeting. The purpose of the presentation was to explain the
    enrollment challenges at nearby Lincoln Elementary and to continue to gather community feedback on possible solutions to the challenges Lincoln faces. While one possible solution included changing LaSalle’s status as a magnet school, that option
    will not be pursued and LaSalle’s status as a magnet school remains in place. In the coming weeks my team will continue to examine all alternative possible options, both
    short and long-term, to accommodate the challenges facing Lincoln and the community, which must be addressed. I have every confidence that we will identify a feasible resolution that will
    be in the best interest of all students and families in the community.
    Thank you for your continued dedication to your child’s education and all that you have done to support LaSalle. I wish you and your families the happiest of holidays.

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