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LSNA 52nd Congress Tackles Housing And Education

The Logan Square Neighborhood Association 52nd Annual Congress convened at Funston Elementary School‘s auditorium (2010 N. Central Park Ave.) last week. Neighborhood activists, community groups and elected officials gathered to discuss issues such as immigration, housing and education.

The Congress ended with a march to Ames Middle School (1920 N. Hamlin Ave.), which is set to be converted into a military school in a controversial move by the Chicago Board of Education. Hundreds of parents, students and community members carried lit candles and signs with messages opposed to the school conversion.

The marchers were greeted by a thunderstorm once they reached the middle school for a candlelight vigil.

“It seems the moon and stars reflect our souls a little right now,” said Ellen Ray, LSNA President, speaking to the crowd through a megaphone.

“There will be a school here. There will not be our school.”

AMES MIDDLE SCHOOL'S FUTURE

Parents and students spoke to a full auditorium about concerns about the future of Ames Middle School and Kelvyn Park High School (4343 W. Wrightwood Ave.).

Ames parent Delia Bonilla highlighted 26th Ward Alderman Roberto Maldonado’s push to turn Ames Middle School into a military academy despite the protestations of the LSNA and other community members. The Board of Education approved the plan last December

In March, a coalition of neighbors petitioned to add an advisory referendum to the ballot asking voters if they believed Ames should or should not be turned into a military academy. Voters in eight precincts, including areas within Ald. Maldonado’s 26th Ward*, returned a 69 percent vote in favor of maintaining Ames as a neighborhood community school.

The future of Kelvyn Park High School was also on the agenda. Last December, Chicago Public Schools proposed adding a seventh and eighth grade class to the high school to accommodate displaced Ames students. CPS has not made public their plans to prepare Kelvyn Park for the new influx of students.

CPS Director of Family and Community Engagement Bill Gerstein told Congress attendees that CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett is committed to setting a date to discuss plans for Kelvyn Park High School. Activists at the Congress expressed skepticism that plans would be announced in time for the coming school year.

Will Guzzardi, who recently defeated incumbent Toni Berrios in the Democratic primaries for State Representative, spoke to the crowd gathered at Ames following the vigil.

“We have to understand that the problems faced here at Ames…are systemic problems,” he said.

Guzzardi reiterated his position that an elected representative school board will assure that the community is represented in CPS discussions.

“We need as a community to make sure this does not happen to Kelvyn Park.”

LATHROP HOMES DEVELOPMENT

LSNA members and tenants of Lathrop Homes discussed the Chicago Housing Authority’s proposed development of Lathrop Homes to incorporate mixed-income housing. Many members of the community say they do not believe they have been included in CHA plans and fear displacement.

Aldermen Rey Colón (35th Ward),  Scott Waguespack (32nd Ward) and Joe Moreno (1st Ward) encourage advocates to increase pressure on the CHA through voter registration.

LSNA officials pledged to register 2,000 voters this summer. Their initiative was supported by the aldermen and several local groups including the Center For Changing LivesSt. Sylvester Parish and Unity Park Advisory Council.

Ald. Moreno responded to questions regarding his stance on the proposed development of Lathrop Homes to consist of 45 percent market rate housing. Moreno said that he had not heard a compelling argument from the developer that the new market rate housing would add to the diversity of the neighborhood.

“We’re all surrounded by market rate,” Moreno said. “Let’s remember that these are their homes, not just a development.”

*Correction: Ald. Maldonado serves the 26th Ward, originally reported in error as the 26th precinct.

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