I am a current student at bell in the middle school neighborhood program, and I have to say my experience has been less than welcoming. I transferred in at seventh grade, a time when most friendships had already been established. On top of this difficulty, I am one of very few minorities in the school. There is no racial awareness whatsoever and almost everyday I was subject to ignorant comments and jokes. It took a whole school year and a half for the issue to be addressed, even though I'd been alerting staff members for quite awhile. It was almost like they didn't want to admit that they had a bullying issue. Things have slightly improved this year, but the issues of racism was never really tackled. We didn't even celebrate black history month. This school has the potential to amount to something great, but they really need to face the fact that they aren't perfect.
I'm posting this as a public service for those parents uncertain about attending a CPS school. After starting out at one of Chicago's most selective and expensive private schools, we decided to give our neighborhood school a try. It has been a fantastic academic experience. Bell is a great school. North Center offers a suburban feel within the city. Kids/families walk to school and home each day. The kids are challenged academically. Parents have a voice in school policy. Save yourself a bundle by considering Bell over private. But make sure to put some of that money back into the school bc the things Bell lacks have mostly to do with funding. From a neighborhood perspective this area has a great deal to offer -- swimming, soccer, ice hockey, indoor and outdoor tennis, flag football, gymnastics, winter sports leagues all within a few blocks.
We have had a wonderful experience with two children at Bell for the past four years. There were some changes with the new principal but they have been resolved and we couldn't be happier with the administration, parental involvement, and the education our children are receiving. They are amongst a great peer group and the environment is challenging but still nurturing, We debated among several north side elementary districts and couldn't be happier as part of the Bell Elementary family!
We like the Bell community. However, I was disappointed that the principal was not a good leader. I never see her smile or greet anyone. Even when I visited there to volunteer, I felt I was not welcomed. She is supposed to be a role model for our children, right?! Also, she is always late or does not reply to our e-mail messages, which makes me think she is not responsible and she is trying to stay away from us.
I'm a parent of two students recently graduated from Bell. I think Bell's positive reputation is a remnant of the prior principal. Since he left the school has changed for the worse. I agree with another review on this site regarding the poor job the school does for its 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. Most teachers at Bell don't know how to handle this age group, creating a culture that is very uncomfortable for the kids. I appreciate that teaching at this level is a difficult job, but current Bell teachers too often resort to bullying the students, and the administration's chief concern is on perception and self interest. Fair warning to parents with children about to enter these grades - stay involved.
I am a 7th grader in the options department at Bell School and I am honestly very happy where I am. Although I do think that the new principal is not as included and well rounded as the old one, I still find Bell to be such an including and wonderful school. I've been here since I was in kindergarten and I have made great connections with the student and the teachers. I would like to make a shoutout to the seventh grade options teacher (Mr. Klein) I think that he has prepared many students to be able to reach their full potential and get ready for high school which is an extremely helpful pro to Bell. The academics are really good for what I am aware of and some of the reviews saying that they aren't, are not really looking at all of the different view points and really looking at the work that their kid is given.
I think this school has been a wonderful experience for my children! We moved in district just to go here and have not regretted it one second. It is a great community. The teachers are, on the most part, wonderful and caring and my children are thriving in their academic journey here. We have never experienced any bullying or elitist teaching staff as some have reported. I volunteer often in the school and feel I have a great rapport with the staff. They school encourages parent participation and volunteerism, a part that makes is so great.
If you scratch the surface of the hype surrounding this school, you will discover that all that glitters is not gold. I have had 2 kids at this school for the last 6 years and the truth is that this is the most over-rated school in Chicago. The environment is elitist and entitled. Bullying is rampant and not addressed. The "wonderful" education is mediocre at best. Unless you plan on donating a lot of money or spending hours volunteering, forget about your child being treated as anything more than a statistic. While there may be a few teachers who are wonderful, they are the minority and most teachers are extremely passive-aggressive in their attitudes towards the students especially in the upper grades. I moved to the neighborhood specifically for this school and wish I had stayed where we were. . There are a lot of other parents who feel the same way but are afraid to say anything for fear of repercussions.
I do not recommend this school for anyone who has a deaf child. The principal is very inexperienced and is just worried about the how everything looks to impress outsiders. They confuse children and families.