Chicago Public Schools’ announcement of a new $75 million school is being lauded as one of the single largest educational investments the Englewood neighborhood has witnessed in decades, according to school officials.
CPS approved a proposal submitted by the Englewood Community Action Council for the opportunity to construct a new school on the same lot as the already standing Paul Robeson High School, 6835 S. Normal Blvd. The projected plan is to construct a new “state of the art” school building beside Roberson then demolish the older building before the start of School Year 2019-2020. The new school would combine Harper High School, 6520 S. Wood St.; TEAM Englewood Community Academy High School, 6201 S. Stewart Ave.; and John Hope Academy, 5501 S. Lowe Ave., which all rated by CPS as Level 2. CPS’ School Quality Rating Policy ranks schools on a 1+, 1, 2+, 2, 3 scale, with 1+ being the highest possible score.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Forrest Claypool said the decision to move forward with the Englewood school was the latest in a series to make the community more vibrant for residents. He applauded the neighborhood’s elementary schools and added that local high school students needed “a good reason to stay in the neighborhood.”
“Englewood children should not have to travel several miles and miles to find a quality high school experience,” said Claypool. “They deserve a modern high school with excellent academic programs.”
Claypool said details like the school’s name, boundaries, safety, local resident’s involvement in the construction process, and more would all be discussed further in the months to come.
Dori Collins, co-chair of the Englewood Community Action Council, said the organization was “hopeful” their proposal would be selected by CPS. She said the proposal was part of the council’s strategic education plan it adopted in 2011. It is her expectation that the council will be included in all phases of the planning process alongside CPS.
“When we learned of the opportunity for the capital fund, we took advantage of that opportunity to write for the proposal based on the needs of the children in Englewood,” said Collins.
Collins said she and the coalition will continue to speak with the community to ensure that their voices are continuously heard throughout the process. She said two primary concerns she has are the safety of students and programs for students who aren’t college bound to enter the work force.
Dr. Janice K. Jackson, CPS Chief Education Officer, described the announcement as “remarkable.” Jackson said based on her first-hand experience opening Westinghouse College Prep in the East Garfield neighborhood, she knows how a new school can completely transform a community for the better.
“I can tell you despite all of the challenges that we faced as we come together and work together to figure out the vision, once that new school [is built, it] changes not only the trajectory for the students but it changes communities, and that’s why I’m so excited today,” said Jackson. “There’s thousands of children in this community who deserve a high quality high school.”
Jackson echoed Claypool’s sentiment that there’s still more work to be done before completing the school. When asked about the current status of Harper High School, TEAM Englewood Community Academy High School, and John Hope Academy, she said the schools will remain open until Fall 2019.
Alfrieta Hull, youth school counselor at Earle Elementary School, 2040 W 62nd St., sat in the front row alongside several of the students she chaperoned to attend the announcement for the school. She said she was excited that her students would receive first-hand information about what’s to come for the future. A few of the students asked questions during the press conference following the announcement.
“When we got here we really didn’t know what to expect, but they’re really excited; initially they had conversations about other high schools across the city, but now they see they have an opportunity to go to a state-of-the-art high school right in their neighborhood,” said Hull. “Knowing that they will be the first group of students who have a chance to walk the halls, hopefully, that gives them a sense of motivation, inspiration, and encouragement.”