An Evening with Amundsen and Lake View at Coonley Elementary, April 4, 2018

By Joe Alter

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Last week’s gathering at Coonley, one of the 17 GROWCommunity elementary schools, was a powerful testament to the demand for high-quality neighborhood high school options, not just in GROW’s community, but across the city.

On a brisk April school night evening, more than 375 prospective students and their parents, representing more than 30 public and private elementary schools, streamed into Coonley’s gym and multipurpose room eager to learn more about the first-class programming and offerings at GROW’s two anchor high schools, Amundsen and Lake View. Guests were welcomed by a team of volunteers decked out in blue GROWCommunity t-shirts.

Busloads — literally — of students and staff from Lake View and Amundsen set up a pop-up GROWCommunity neighborhood high school fair along the perimeter of Coonley’s gym and multipurpose room with informational tables, musical performances, robotic demonstrations, crafting stations and more.

In the gym, Lake View Principal Paul J. Karafiol touted the school’s college and career readiness metrics and his school’s comprehensive, school-wide commitment to STEM instruction and learning frameworks across all grades, subject areas and student abilities. In the multipurpose room, Amundsen Principal Anna Pavichevich explained the newly announced expansion of the school’s IB programme to make Amundsen a Wall-to-Wall IB school, benefiting the entire school community with a unified pedagogical approach grounded in inquiry, research and citizenship.

The buzz around both schools was palpable as the curious guests gathered around tables staffed by engaged and enthusiastic high school students, instructors and counselors. As I made my way around both sessions, I was able to speak with some parents and students, all of whom seemed impressed by what they saw.

Many families reported hearing about the event from their child’s elementary school. Others, like Ana Atanasio, a parent of a 7th grader at Pierce Elementary, found out through GROWCommunity’s Facebook page. Her daughter is interested in architecture and was eager to find out more about high school engineering opportunities.

Many parents shared that while they researched and considered a range of high schools, their kids just felt more comfortable at their neighborhood schools, and they were simultaneously confident in the academic rigor and depth of programming. Surveying the audience during her introductory remarks, Principal Pavichevich reflected on how much this embrace of neighborhood high schools means not just to Amundsen and Lake View, but to rising neighborhood schools across the city and the communities they serve.

The pictures say it all: a full house of inspiration, warmth, commitment and community investment in our dynamic neighborhood schools.

Joe Alter is a social work student, a research assistant at the Metropolitan Planning Council and a longtime GROWCommunity groupie. He lives in Rogers Park with his wife and son who is a second grader at New Field Elementary School.