This week Chicago Public Schools officials announced an expansion of its re-engagement services for youth not currently enrolled in school.
The expansion effort will add over 800 seats in alternative option schools for school year 2014-15 through new and expanded partnerships with successful providers that specialize in work with out-of-school and off-track youth.
Barbara Byrd-Bennett, chief executive officer of CPS, presented the alternative options expansion at a recent Chicago School Board meeting. With the addition of the 800 seats, the continued expansion would nearly double enrollment capacity in alternative option schools from 5,339 seats in 2010 to 9,439 seats in 2014, according to Bennett.
“We will not give up on any student. Doubling the number of quality options and alternative pathways to nontraditional learning environments allows us to help our hardest to reach children and provide them a chance to succeed,” explained Byrd-Bennett. “Meeting more of our children’s unique needs through alternative options is a key piece of my five-year action plan. With parents, teachers and principals working together, we can bring students who are out of school or off-track back onto a path to reaching their goals.”
Ongoing efforts to continue expanding alternative option schools include the Board of Education’s (BOE) approval of a second Camelot acceleration academy that will serve 375 out-of-school and at-risk youths aged 16-21 in next school year, who reside in the Englewood community. Camelot schools also operate a successful Excel Academy serving the Roseland and Morgan Park communities that opened last year.
As part of the 2013 Options RFP, a special multiple- site dropout charter to be run by the Pathways in Education – Illinois and two additional contract schools run by Camelot Schools will be present to the BOE for approval. If approved, these schools would open next year. With these new and existing alternative options providers, there is an opportunity to expand the number of available seats in coming years based on need.
The proposed expansion comes with a strategic approach, said CPS officials, by both placing additional seats in neighborhoods with the greatest need and by incorporating community outreach to identify and bring back off-track youths.
Earlier this year, the district launched Student Outreach and Re-engagement Centers in the Garfield Park, Roseland and Little Village communities to proactively find these youth and support their return to school. In addition, providers are required to execute outreach to find and reconnect with out-of-school and off-track youth through such means as phone calls and door knocking.