Chicago scraps plans to convert elementary to high school

Dec. 4, 2018
District drops plans to convert the National Teachers Academy hours after a judge issues an injunction blocking the move.

The Chicago school district has abandoned its plan to convert a largely African-American elementary school in the South Loop into a neighborhood high school.

The Chicago Tribune reports the decision came hours after a Cook County judge temporarily blocked the district from phasing out elementary grades at the National Teachers Academy (NTA).

Parents had sued to block the conversion, arguing that it would violate state civil rights laws.

The district says it was dropping the conversion plan to avoid the “potential disruption” of further legal action

NTA will keep its status as an elementary school, and its student body will not merge with the nearby South Loop Elementary School. A regional center for gifted students will stay at NTA and not transition to South Loop. 

“While we strongly disagree with today’s ruling, we believe appealing today’s decision could create greater long-term uncertainty for students and we will not move forward with an appeal." district spokesman Michael Passman says.

The planned merger had drawn intense condemnation from opponents, but it also had support from South Loop and Chinatown residents who have clamored for a new high school.

Starting in fall 2019, NTA's kindergarten through third-grade students would have transferred to a South Loop campus that is already receiving a new multimillion-dollar building.

NTA's campus was set to begin its gradual conversion into a high school that same year, starting with a class of ninth-graders. The district planned to spend as much as $10 million to transform the NTA campus into a high school with capacity for about 1,000 students.

The lawsuit argued the district used improper academic and legal criteria to justify carrying out its plan.

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