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I don't understand the school system!


leannkruger May 24, 2011

I am moving to Chicago from a small town in Iowa. Here we have 1 public school in our town that everyone goes to. We don't have to research what schools to go to, there are no locks on the doors, or metal detectors, no gangs or fear of any kind while my kids are at school. How do I choose a school in Chicago that is safe? Can my kids go to a school in the suburb that I work in if I live in the City? I need some explanation of how this school system works. My kids are 4, 6, and 13.

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MrsJurkowski May 25, 2011

Finding a good school in Chicago is extremely challenging. While you need to think about safety, you REALLY need think about the quality of the schooling your children will be receiving. That is what keeps most parents up at night. There are many good private schools, but often they come with steep tuition prices. There are great public magnet schools, but these can be very competitive. I work in the city, but moved to the suburbs and commute to work everyday on the Metra just for access the free, quality public schools in my suburb. That being said, there are a lot of bad schools in the suburbs too, so you really need to do your homework. To answer your question above, no, your kids will not be allowed to go to schools in the suburb in which you work, unless it is a private school. Do you know where in Chicago you will be living?


samaasim1 May 25, 2011

Well just to let you know that many parents in Chicago are very FRUSTRATED with the chicago public school system. There are not enough good public schools to go around, so it's very competitive. A good place to start would be the chicago public schools website and the office of academic enhancement website. There are neighborhood schools that are great but it depends on where you live. If you have an address you can go to the chicago public schools locator and plug it in. Then research the schools on the greatschools website to find out more about them. Otherwise, most other schools require you to apply a year in advance. You can call the office of academic enhancement to find out more information about the application process. If you google Chicago magazine top schools 2010 it will give you a list of schools that are doing well. Then go through each of them to find out what kind of school it is. If you're moving this summer, your best bet is to look for good neighborhood schools that have an attendance boundary so that you automatically get in. I hope this helps a little, I know it's very confusing.


kajackson May 29, 2011

I was in this situation three years ago. It's been quite a learning curve. If I were starting the process again here is what I'd say on this question. #1-Find schools first THEN seek housing in that school's geographic boundaries. You've miss the deadline to apply to magnet schools (that that take students outside the boundary area) so you have to research some decent and fairly safe public grade schools. #2-High school here is like college. You CAN attend your local one but the quality is hit or miss. Or you can apply to the competitive ones, like we compete for getting into colleges. If you are seeking affordable housing and decent grade schools, you probably won't be close to the lake. You might want to look at the Portage Park neighborhood, Mayfair, Lincoln Park. Good luck!


abigail1961 May 31, 2011

I moved from Iowa to Chicago when I was 11 years old. We attended the Chicago Public School system (not the magnet or charter). It was a culture shock, I dont advise that you send your kids to the Chicago Public Schools (very bad rep from both a academic and safety perspective) if you choose to stay in the city of Chicago, maybe Saganash, Portage Park, but other than that, if public schools are your only option financially, move to Park Ridge, Skokie, Morton Grove, maybe Niles...the housing is comparable to the city (NOT very expensive), and you are close enough to the highways you can get downtown, or anywhere.

You cannot live in the City of Chicago, and school your children in the suburb where you work. You can only school your children in the Public schools where you reside. The ONLY exception, is paying for a parochial school or private school - then you can enroll them anywhere, any suburb, you want, providing there is a opening. Registration for the private schools begins in January, Feb.



ebritel June 7, 2011

I completely agree with the other posts. Chicago Public Schools are pretty much a mess. There are great schools, but those are next to impossible to get into and many of the students travel there by bus and/or train. I have friends whose HS children have to leave 1.5 hours early to get to school on the other side of town and they take 2 different city buses.
If at all possible, I would advise you to look into living in the suburbs. Not all suburban schools are good, but if you do a little research, I'm sure you could find one that meets your needs.
I've lived in Chicago for a long time, but now that my son is turning 3 and I've gotten a very small taste of CPS, we're moving to the suburbs. I will miss the city, but I really want my son to have a quality education and cannot afford to pay for a private school.
Good luck in your move!


chgokristi August 2, 2011

Hi Leann - Hopefully you have started navigating the system by now. The one post is correct in that you should identify the schools you want first, then find housing though as a real estate agent looking for my my own next home, I can tell you there is much more to that plan than simply meets the eye! You also need to know your budget for housing and what kind of community you want to live in and then balance that with the best school options near there because you might not be able to or want to try to afford the homes near your number one school. The other post is correct, for public, you have to reside in the actual suburb to use their public schools and vice versa for the city. The city is unique, however, in that you can apply to other schools such as suggested above so if you like the grade school option but not the high school, you can apply to others throughout the city. The taxes are also often less in the city than the near neighboring suburbs.
Please feel free to contact me directly if you have questions about the city, neighborhoods, nearby surrounding suburbs (I am less knowledgable about the further out ones but could direct you to someone that is) as far as the schools, community and pricing options for homes. Finding the right balance is tough but so important (and I'm originally from a very small town in far southern Illinois so I know the adjustment you are facing!) My email is
Best wishes with your move!


ladyoflzur August 27, 2011

No your children can not go to a suburban school if you live in the city. You really don't have much of a choice where your child goes to school. If your child is attending public school then they have to go to the school that's in the district where you live. Chicago public schools are among the worst in the nation. 70% of elementary school students are at least 1 year below grade level. Only 50% of High School Students graduate and only 7% of High School Juniors are college ready! If you are going to work in the suburbs you should live in the suburbs, it's much cheaper than living in the city. Even the bad suburban schools are better than the average Chicago public school. My parents never sent us to public school and I never sent my kids to public school. Private school is really your best option but it is very expensive. Magnet and charter schools are better than regular Public schools but they have a very long waiting list. There are very few public schools that have pre school (programs for 4 year olds). Most parents pay for pre school or day care.


ChicagoMammy September 8, 2011

Wow - It sounds impossible judging from the other posters, but it's not. For elementary there are lots of decent schools. I am not doubting people's figures, but I assume you are not going to be moving into the poorest neighborhood with metal detectors and 70% of elem. students 1 year (or more) below grade level. Use this tool: to locate various school boundaries. Select attendance boundaries for elementary schools. Generally (not always) the near north and further out northwest side will have the better schools. Make a big list of all the schools you find and use this website (greatschools) to see if they are any way decent.

Many things you will only learn when you hit the ground, but since your kids are all still in Elem/middle just make sure you move into a neighborhood with a decent school. It is not impossible

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