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PUSH rescues Bronzeville Academy Charter School

Rainbow PUSH Coalition

The saying when it rains it pours couldn’t be truer for 320 Bronzeville Academy Charter School (BACS) students. Their nightmare began on Monday, April 29, when it not only rained, but the thunderstorms caused damage on all three floors of the school at 4930 S. Cottage Grove, once home of the historic all-male Hales Franciscan Catholic High School.

For the safety of the students, the Illinois Department of Public Health ordered the building permanently closed. Fearing the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) would revoke its charter because of the school’s sudden displacement, Bronzeville Academy CEO Alvin Boutte, Jr., reached out to the Rainbow PUSH Coalition seeking a three-year lease at PUSH’s 930 E 50th St. location. PUSH officials agreed to accommodate Bronzeville Academy.

The partnership satisfied the ISBE’s concern that the school had no home, but Bronzeville’s attorney, Yusef Jackson, and Boutte are now asking ISBE Board members to renew a new charter for the 2026-2027 academic year.

At a press conference on Saturday, May 11, Attorney Yusef Jackson, his father, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Boutte, and Principal Simcha Baker-Dixon, along with other school staff members, made a plea to the ISBE to approve the school’s charter so as not to disrupt the students’ education. They say the school’s partnership with PUSH satisfies ISBE’s concern about BACS students being without a home school.

When Boutte called Attorney Jackson seeking help, Jackson said, “We do what PUSH does, we opened our doors to the students.”

Jackson said as a father of five he can understand the insecurity parents may feel not knowing where their children will attend school. He is asking for a three-year lease to stabilize the lives and schooling of the students. 

In a joint letter to the Board, Jackson and Boutte explained that, “Our charter renewal was in jeopardy of revocation solely due to lack of a location. Our partnership with Rainbow PUSH for a minimum of three years resolves that issue and solidifies continued educational growth for our 320 students. The timing of the decision to keep BACS open is crucial, as our families would have limited options due to enrollment and GoCPS testing requirements.”

Having held classes at PUSH for a week and within the proximity to their old campus at 4930 S. Cottage Grove, Jackson and Boutte said, “The transition has been seamless. Your vote to keep BACS open will expand our STEM efforts, as Rainbow PUSH already offers programs in specialized robotics and eSports.”

“Our partnership is generating excitement, restoring optimism and cultivating a collaborative environment and mindset,” added Boutte.

In an interview on Tuesday, May 14, with the Chicago Crusader, Boutte explained that rain, and roofing repairs caused the closing of the Bronzeville campus and how his 320 students are now housed at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, 930 E. 50th St.

“It was raining on April 29 and flooding, due to the roof replacement that our landlord was doing at the time during the school year,” said Boutte. “Several of the drains were clogged with roofing material, which caused the building to be flooded out at the Hales Franciscan campus.”

The Bronzeville Academy’s K-8th grade students have been assigned every available room in the Civil Rights organization’s building, including eighth-graders whose classroom is in the historic Reverend Clay Evans Chapel, named for Reverend Jackson’s late pastor who headed Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church.

Excited to have a new home for the students, Boutte, whose father was Alvin Boutte, Sr., founder, CEO, and chairman of Independence Bank, said he grew up going to Operation PUSH, now called the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

“It was always a welcoming place.”

He said it is amazing to see what it is today, compared to 50 years ago when the building was once a Jewish synagogue with classes for their students. “To see kids now in rooms at PUSH where I grew up is amazing,” said Boutte. “It’s taking me back to my roots.”

Assistant Principal Vincent Payne is also excited that the Rainbow PUSH Coalition headquarters is their new home. “I am absolutely amazed at our partnership with PUSH,” he said on May 14, during a tour of the historic building where every room available is being utilized by the students.

Eric Brewer, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade students, said he is proud to have his students attend school inside the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and to be exposed to many Civil Rights’ issues, as well as learning the past accomplishments of Reverend Jackson.

Filled with emotion, fourth-grade teacher Leslie Turner wanted to know why contractors did not place a protective covering over the roof, a preventative measure that would not have caused the displacement of students. “My babies need to learn. We need people to stand together,” she said.

In their letter to the ISBE, Jackson and Boutte said, “We recognize that people need second chances in this world. At this moment, we are asking you to stand with the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and many other partners to give the children and community of Bronzeville Academy Charter School another chance.”

Northeastern Illinois University Professor Emeritus Robert Starks, also at the press conference, said “Education is so important for our children. We will do everything we can to help you. We have your back to make sure the ISBE supports you.”

On Tuesday, May 14, the students eagerly answered their teachers’ questions raising their hands and belting out answers. Their classrooms are in the Community Hall and almost all offices of the three-story PUSH building, including that of eighth-graders who occupy the Reverend Clay Evans Chapel.

Reverend Jackson asked parents to take their child to school, meet the child’s teacher, exchange phone numbers, and turn off the TV while they are doing their homework.

Calls and emails placed to ISBE were not returned by Chicago Crusader print deadline on May 15.

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