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Will I really have to move to the suburbs once Junior’s ready for kindergarten?

In a nutshell, no—and you don’t have to shell out thousands for private-school tuition, either. There are plenty of really great (not just...

Illustration: Peter Hoey

In a nutshell, no—and you don’t have to shell out thousands for private-school tuition, either. There are plenty of really great (not just decent) Chicago Public School options available, and in our opinion (and despite budget cuts) things are getting better every year. That said, understanding what’s available and navigating the CPS application process can seem overwhelming even to in-the-know parents. According to Rebecca Labowitz, mother of a CPS second-grader and the author of the chock-full-of-info blog cpsobsessed.com, the key is to look for schools with both heavy parent involvement and where momentum is building.

“Start by talking to other parents,” she says. “Parties, playgrounds and classes are the perfect place to ask, ‘Where do your kids go to school?’ to get inside information about local options. The discussion board at Neighborhood Parents Network (paid membership required) lets parents share insights about schools, while cps.edu is a good source for test scores and school data. Independent workshops such as Christine Whitley’s ‘ABCs of CPS’ and the website CPSMagnet.org can also help navigate the ever-changing obstacle course of applications, testing and neighborhood boundary rules.”

Ultimately, Labowitz says, careful research followed by a calculated move within the city can help you land a good school fit and find the sense of community that makes the suburbs seem so appealing.

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