South Loop School
In Chicago’s Dearborn Park community, South Loop School is a community school serving students from prekindergarten through eighth grade. A local school council, consisting of the principal, six parents, two community representatives and two teachers, governs the school. South Loop also benefits from a significant fundraising campaign through the Friends and Family of South Loop Inc. In the past 10 years, the school and its surrounding community have undergone a complete transformation. A decade ago, the school was close to being placed on probation. Now, it’s highly sought after by families from across the district.
Part of the school’s improvement has resulted from the addition of the Regional Gifted Center, a gifted program that attracts talented, high-achieving students from across the district (beyond the school’s boundaries). These students make up approximately half of South Loop’s enrollment and the initiative is largely considered to have improved the school’s academic standing. Additionally, South Loop has an extensive Fine and Performing Arts Magnet Cluster. Within this program and thanks to partnerships with community organizations, students benefit from direction in at least three fine arts disciplines.
Before and after school, South Loop offers an array of extracurricular activities and community services. Activities often start as early as 8 a.m. and end as late as 8 p.m. The activities allow students to enhance their academic, social and emotional development as well as participate in athletics and fine arts. The school also has developed an Early Learning Center, a tuition-based early childhood education program for children ages 3 to 5. For South Loop students and non-South Loop neighborhood families, the school offers a tuition-based extended day program until 6 p.m.
Now, because of Dearborn Park’s surging growth and South Loop’s soaring success, the school’s most significant problem is exceeding capacity; it’s set to breach official capacity in the 2011-12 academic year. As a result, officials have proposed moving grades 6-8 to a nearby school that is under capacity. A parent-member of the local school council has suggested that the school add ninth grade and move toward developing a complete high school. In either case, South Loops’ gifted program is at issue and is being weighed against the school’s impending enrollment concerns.
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