New North Chicago charter school aims to draw military families

GREAT LAKES — A new charter school opened in North Chicago School District 187 on Tuesday despite resistance by some community leaders, including a majority of the former school board, which was replaced this summer in a state takeover.

LEARN North Chicago, located on property leased from Naval Station Great Lakes, welcomed 250 students, about 40 percent from military families, according to Principal Anik Zampini. The publicly funded, privately operated elementary school, where enrollment will gradually expand to 500, is Lake County’s second charter school. Prairie Crossing Charter in Grayslake opened in 1999.

Melissa Slye of Great Lakes, whose husband Paul serves as a Navy chief, canceled her daughter’s spot at St. James School in Highwood after her name was drawn in the LEARN North Chicago lottery. She said she would not otherwise have considered sending 5-year-old Leila to North Chicago public schools, where a reputation for some of the lowest standardized test scores in the state and turmoil in leadership is old news on the military grapevine.

“All around the country, they know,” Slye said. “A lot of Great Lakes families home school or send their kids to private schools, or they move to a different district once their kids reach school age. Or they won’t take a transfer here in the first place.”

Full Story