Like many schools facing closing or consolidation, Jenner has been affected by the removal of public housing and subsequent gentrification of its catchment era:
Some Jenner students come from the few remaining Cabrini row houses, others from the new developments where some former Cabrini residents have qualified to live. Yolanda Dampier’s kids are among the ones who come far to get here, back to the neighborhood that still feels like home. Dampier rides a bus and a train every weekday morning to bring her kids back to where she went to school. It’s a better education, in a safer part of town, than what she can find near her new place on the South Side. “You close restaurants,” she said. “But a school? Why should they kick these kids out to put somebody else in?”
Jenner has already been subject to two difficult school actions in the recent past, 2004 and 2009:
“Jenner is just about the ‘last school standing’ from the five elementary schools that once served children inside the Cabrini-Green CTA homes. CPS has systematically closed down the four others — giving one to the Catholic Church, another to a charter school, and a third to a selective enrollment public school. Every change in the Cabrini area schools was traumatic for the remaining number of children from the old community, as their schools were closed despite reminders to CPS of the problems that would result.
The Jenner speakers mentioned that they have been the ‘receiving school’ twice for schools closed in their area, most recently when Schiller Elementary was closed. They detailed the violence that followed those closings, their efforts at Jenner to help all students through the transition, and they emphasized safety concerns, should this neighborhood lose yet another neighborhood school. They implored CPS to not close down one of the last remnants of the Cabrini Green housing project community.”
Now Jenner is set to receive students from Manniere, a school that it has had a rivalry with for generations.
“And by no means please don’t think that I can condone that type of activity or characteristic in a community. I don’t. I don’t agree with it, and we’re doing everything we can to change those kind of things; but in this neighborhood, from the time when I was a teenager until now, there’s an invisible line in our community between Manierre and Jenner.[…]It’s a real thing in this neighborhood. I got a little brother who got shot going to school, sitting up there. This is a reality in this neighborhood. This is a reality in this neighborhood. I’m going to tell you, I hate to say it, but it is, it’s a reality, and it is what we have to live with and what we have to deal with. But also, also, also, we don’t need to balance our budgets and put people’s lives in jeopardy. That’s not right.” —27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett, Jenner alum
Although Jenner is not closing, it will become an International Baccalaureate school, and this type of designation change gives CPS the option of making staff changes. (Conversion to an IB school at the high school level has been a way to expedit the firing of tenured teachers.)
“I have children in my classroom who have witnessed not one, not two, but three and four homicides, deal with homelessness, deal with molestation, deal with bullying, deal with being relocated from one place to another, parents just trying to figure out how to survive. And then you want to know why they’re not testing at grade levels? … Then you want to tie–getting to your point–your teacher evaluations to how well your kids are doing on a test?” —Tara Stamps, Jenner teacher