Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Closing Irving School, random ruminations, with sub-titles

Imagine you are in elementary, going to a school that is part of a fragile, yet closely knit community. A school where the same group of employees and volunteers have come in for years and done whatever they could to make your experience better. A school where EVERY child inside lives in poverty and the only place they can find refuge is in the classroom.

Imagine one day that school closed and you were shifted to a new school; a school where all of the people live in houses that are nicer than yours (you come from the projects) and as a result, they think they are better than you. The sad thing is, you imagine they are better than you.

Closing schools kill neighborhoods
It has been proven locally, there is an alternative to closing schools and forcibly herding children and families. Quest Charter Academy has proven that some old school buildings can be revived. The Board that oversees Quest has collaborated with the City and the County in a way that shows that closing schools doesn't have to happen - renovation may be possible:

Old Loucks School
Renovated Loucks School now Quest

Remember this post about the overcrowding of Glen Oak School? To date, tax payers have not heard back from the District about the solution to the overcrowding, nor has anybody in any position of authority, publicly inquired about the welfare of the students being warehoused. Out of sight - out of mind.

One can't help but wonder whether the classrooms at Lincoln School will now be over crowded.

Population Shift
Notice on the map below, there are no public schools in the lower valley in between Valeska Hinton (special admission only) and Lincoln Middle School. Additionally, there are no public schools in the lower valley in between Lincoln Middle School and Washington Gifted School (special admission only).

Redistricting is complete; the School District has a new boundary map; the City is already working with the Housing Authority; and eventually the families of the children that have been shifted to the schools in the lower valley (below the East Bluff and Glen Oak Park) will follow. 

Developers are salivating, their dream of developing the river front, down the river front trail to the marina, is closer now than it has ever been. Taft and the surrounding areas are well within grasp. Full river front development is potentially on track to being realized, thanks to the cooperation of the School District.

Irving School to close Dec. 21.
The 114-year-old school is finally, actually closing at the end of 2012. Since August, students and staff have been preparing to move to a 20-year-old air-conditioned building with new cafeteria, library, kitchen and computer lab.

On Dec. 21, Irving students will take what amounts to a field trip to their new school. They'll load onto buses, carrying their books and supplies, then unpack them in their cubbies at Lincoln, which will become simply Lincoln School, rather than Lincoln Middle School.

From the beginning of Christmas break to the end, Lincoln will go from a middle school to a kindergarten-through-eighth grade building, approximately doubling to 820 students and 86 teachers and other staff.

The district changed Irving's starting times so students could get accustomed to riding a bus route with Lincoln students. Substitute teachers have been hired to assure each teacher three days to pack and move into a new classroom. When the students move to Lincoln, the caring volunteers will follow them.

Lincoln open house and ribbon-cutting for new addition: 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the school, 700 Mary St. The ribbon-cutting ceremony is 6 p.m., followed by a parents' forum with the Superintendent, tours and the open house. Source


Anonymous said...

The current site of Taft Homes is a perfect spot for a inner city park.

Anonymous said...

I have worked at Irving for over two years now. You are right, the teachers have been there forever, some for over 18 yrs. This is the most dedicated staff I have seen in District 150. This is the same staff that is going to Lincoln. It will be K-8, not a middle school. These children, as all children, need a safe place and it will continue to be provided for them because the same caring and love is going with them to their new home. I understand that Peoria is lacking in schools, you are right. I have no control over that, but please be assured that the staff will continue to serve these children with the the same love, care and knowledge. None of that is being left behind.

Sharon Crews said...

Good post, Emerge--and these bad decisions made by District 150 continue to have a negative impact on students and District 150.

Emerge Peoria said...

It's good to hear that all of the caring people that the students rely on will still be there, that's important.

The last time the school district and City shifted children from Irving to a north end school (Greeley), the children from Irving were treated indifferently by staff and other students who lived in homes in the near north side,they were a burden and unwelcome.

The students of Irving love Mike Illuzzi and I know he will do all he can to make a difference and his presence will be important.

It will be even more difficult to encourage parent involvement with the school being so far away.

I notice the Superintendent will be holding a parent forum at the new Lincoln, hopefully they will provide transportation for the parents in Taft and surrounding areas to get down to Lincoln Middle School.

Frustrated said...

I agree with all your thoughts. Parents in overcrowded schools need to advocate for change and speak directly to the Board.

I do believe, however,that Riverfront Development is a good thing and needs to continue.

I just visited the new COSTCO last week. Wow! What a kick to the economy. So many employees running around.

If Peoria could attract a big commercial entity, i.e. hotel, more restaurant development, etc. to the Riverfront it offers those living in the inner city more opportunities for employment.

Dennis in Peoria said...

I think a good blog post would be to review how many schools in the valley (both South End and North Valley) have been closed versus schools closed above the Valley. Keep in mind many of these schools have been closed since about 1983, long before Dr. Lathan was hired as Superintendent.

Dennis in Peoria said...

Actually, I should say since 1983, as I know that was about when PCCEO acquired Webster School for their Head Start Program. Also would be interesting to see how many of these buildings still remain empty, vacant.

Erik said...

The tragic irony of Peoria is that the best thing it has going for it is its neighborhoods. There are so many unique parts with just as many unique people. It has been said numerous times that what makes Chicago great is that it is a city of neighborhoods.

So Peoria isn't far off from where it should be right? Wrong. Closing schools as you posted kills those tightly knit bonds of people that actually want to live in certain areas.

Could this somehow be a case of addition by subtraction? Doubtful. Gentrification of the north valley will take a long time (15-25yrs), if at all.

Do the Taft Homes need to go? Yes. It is a terrible built environment for anyone. Creating a mixed-use development as proposed 2 years ago will be the best solution. BUT, the #1 reason why people "leave the city" in almost every city - is the schools. Adults with children pick where to live in large part because of schools.

To remove the "neighborhood" schools as we have done for decades continues the problem.

In regards to the Costco idea, that is the worst thing I have heard. It is a short term solution with narrow vision. East Peoria will not be better off in the long run because of it nor would the north valley.

Peoria needs to think BIG by living small. Localize, and there will be a brighter future than importing all goods/products/stores.

Sorry for such a rant. This is a very good post on a topic that is key piece to Peoria's puzzle. I would love to be that "developer" but not your Cohen, Cullinan or other crooks... a socially responsible one.

Anonymous said...

The great thing about Chicago is that east of Lake Shore Drive almost the entire length of the lakefront is park-like property, with only a few exceptions.

There is nothing wrong with a vision of Peoria's riverfront being park-like property.

The property along the riverfront should be kept looking good, rather than being seen as host to a lot of problems, including crime.

People would visit the riverfront more frequently and feel much safer there if the criminals who take advantage of poverty and drugs and public housing were based elsewhere.