DOWNTOWN — After a two-week petition drive by students at Jones College Preparatory High School, Chicago Public Schools has reversed its decision to change Latin-American and African-American literature classes to an elective and instead keep them as core, English courses.
“I am told that Jones will continue to be able to offer the African-American and Latin-American literature courses for core academic credit for English III and English IV,” said Marielle Sainvilus, a CPS spokeswoman.
In short, she said, “classes will be allowed.”
Sainvilus gave no reason why the school district had decided to keep the classes as core English courses, which helps a student satisfy their graduation requirements. The previous plan was to offer both classes only as electives starting this fall.
“All I can tell you is that the decision to make this change (originally) was done by previous CPS personnel,” she added.
P. Joseph Powers, principal of Jones College Prep, agreed with Sainvilus.
“We were operating on a misconception by previous curriculum standards,” he said. “And based on a misunderstanding the decision was made to no longer offer these courses as English classes but as electives.”
That means Jonelle Gonzalez, a 17-year-old junior at Jones College Prep, can take Latin-American literature this fall as planned.
“I am passionate about my culture, and taking Latin literature would help prepare me for college, since I plan on majoring in Latin-American Studies,” Gonzalez said.
ShaDe’ Phoenix started an online petition Jan. 22 to pressure CPS in keeping the courses as English classes. As of Monday, more than 700 people had signed the petition. The goal was to collect 1,000 signatures.
“Once I found out about the change, I started talking to other students and teachers, and they suggested starting a petition to present to the school board,” said Phoenix, a 17-year-old junior.
Powers added that he confirmed with Annette Gurley, chief of Teaching and Learning for CPS, that it could continue offering the literature class as English courses.
“I am happy to get this issue resolved,” Powers said. “I am not sure if the decision to keep the courses in their current offering [was] due to students starting a petition, but it certainly did not hurt.”
Due to low enrollment, Latin-American literature was not offered this year. But Ernesto Saldivar Jr., who teaches Latin-American literature as well as World and American literature at Jones College Prep, 606 S. State St., expects that to change next school year.
“There was a lot of confusion about whether the class would count as an English class this year so a lot of students decided not to sign up for it,” he said. “I am glad to see both classes being kept and English because that’s really what they’re about.”