Nathanial Pope Elementary views its small community as an asset to its students and staff:
“Because we are small, we can focus on the unique needs of each of our students. No student slips through the cracks, and no child is left behind. The teachers and staff know each individual student personally, and work to provide a rigorous educational experience uniquely suited to meet each child’s own academic and social needs.”
Pope has 183 students, of which 95.6% are low-income and 88.5% are African-American.
“My students are bright, smart, and creative, yet poverty, drugs, and violence plague their world. With these hindrances, educators are fighting for the educational soul of students.” D. Clark, Pope teacher
In order to combat these challenges, Pope offers its school as a community center for the North Lawndale neighborhood.
“As a community school, we offer programs that extend beyond the school day, including recreational sports, dancing, arts and crafts, and even counseling services for the entire family.”
Nathanial Pope partners with America SCORES Chicago, which provides free after-school programing that combines soccer, creative writing and community service. Although CPS has labeled Pope as an underutilized school, its rooms are being utilized for these crucial community functions.
With the closure of Pope, students will go to James Johnson Elementary, yet North Lawndale community members fear for the safety of relocating of students.
“The invisible turf lines must be recognized.” — Darren Tillis, North Lawndale community advisory committee member
“Approximately 80% of the North Lawndale community is in gang territory. Because there are several rival gangs, and the boundaries remain fluid, closing schools could inadvertently create friction as students are transferred to different schools. Closing school buildings in some of the hottest gang areas in the community would invite an escalation in illicit activities.” — Committee to Save North Lawndale Schools
The Committee to Save North Lawndale Schools also worries about the effect of Pope’s vacant building on the neighborhood:
“Having empty school buildings brings down property values and makes it very difficult to sell market rate homes in the vicinity. As it stands, 3 schools: Pope, Lawndale and Gregory are adjacent to new housing developments in which homeowners invested $250,000 to $480,000 in new homes.”
Author: Kim Smolen