Metro: school without walls

by Carol Oblinsky

One high school in Chicago refuses to conform.  It is an experimental school called the Chicago Public High School for Metropolitan Studies, and the classes meet in all different parts of the city.

The school is temporarily located in the Consumer Building at 220 S. State, and has an enrollment of 150 students.  Andrea Temkin, a former student at Roosevelt, recently became a student there.

Andrea’s classes consist of filmmaking at the Art Institute, journalism, which includes working on the company newspaper for Illinois Bell Telephone, and politics, taught by a black alderman on West Madison.  Her courses in Spanish, creative writing, poetry, and black literature are temporarily being taught in the school building.

Andrea comes to the school at 9 a.m. and leaves at 3 p.m.  Each of her classes are 2 hours long.  All of the classes are 8 week sessions, and no class meets more often than twice a week.  There is no homework, but the students work on individual projects in school and in their free time.

The primary purpose of the school is to get students to learn by doing.  The students and teachers are very informal with one another; the students even call their teachers by their first names.  According to Andrea, “Many students came to Metro to escape the conformity and boredom of their high schools.”

There is no set structure in any of the classes at Metro, and the students completely govern the school.  Gym is the only class which is absolutely required and the students can choose courses on anything from retail merchandising to TV production.

The Urban Research Center is responsible for the establishment of this school.  Other U.S. schools like Metro are the Milwaukee Independent School and the School Without Walls, located in Philadelphia.

Right now, students can turn to these schools if they find the present structures ineffective.  The problem is that only a few students from each school are granted this opportunity.

Maybe with some luck and much effort this effective structure can become widespread.


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