As a 5+ year Irving Park resident, member of both Greater Independence Park Neighbors Association (GIPNA) and Old Irving Park Association (OIPA), and parent of a child entering kindergarten and another entering preschool in the fall, I have a vested interest in the Chicago Public Schools' proposal to merge Irving Park Middle School (IPMS) with Thurgood Marshall Middle School (TMMS) and open a magnet school in its stead.
Although I live near Independence Park and blocks away from TMMS and will no doubt feel the impact of the proposed merger much more keenly than my neighbors in West Walker, Old Irving Park, and The Villa, I am absolutely in support of the conversion of IPMS into a magnet school to serve the elementary children of our community. From statistics quoted by Lynda Olander and Heather Aitken of GIPNA at a 2/8 meeting, I believe that the children from IPMS will pose no more of a threat to our neighborhood than those currently in attendance at TMMS. I don't look forward to the increase in playground destruction and vulgar language use by TMMS students loitering at Independence Park (where we often go to play) before and after school, but I don't know that CPS can do anything about its students' behavior outside of school hours and grounds.
As products of public school ourselves, my husband and I are strong proponents of the public school system. Since we moved to Chicago in 2002, we've planned to send our children to CPS. But, as the time grew closer for our eldest to enter kindergarten, I attended CPS open houses and talked to parents of older children. Most of them told me that they investigated the schools in our immediate area and found them lacking; instead, they chose to send their children to either local parochial schools or standout CPS schools in Lake or Northwest side neighborhoods.
I loved walking to school and back with my neighbors as a child. I want that for my own children. But with very few area parents sending their kids to Murphy and Belding Schools and without a standout school nearby, it seems unlikely that my children will have that experience – and they might suffer a sub-par education that leaves them ill-equipped to become critical, liberal thinkers and unprepared for the rigors of high school and college. I am loath to spend a good portion of my children's day in the car or bus commuting to school.
In conclusion, I am very excited about having a magnet school in our immediate community and fully support CPS in its efforts to bring it to the current IPMS facility. I look forward to the day that my 5-year-old and his two younger siblings will attend a nearby school with their neighbors and friends.