by Therese Niedbala – Wednesday, January 24, 2018, 12:31 PM
Talks of Chicago Public Schools plans to close four high schools to make way for a new $85 million high school in Englewood sparked heated conversation Wednesday before the Chicago Board of Education meeting.
The school board is expected to vote next month on building an $85 million high school in Englewood. Newly appointed Chicago Public School CEO Janice Jackson said this is the school Englewood “needs and deserves,” according to a CPS press release issued on Jan. 5.
The proposed state-of-the-art high school would replace the four high schools currently in Englewood.The schools slated for closing are: Hope High School, Robeson High School, Harper High School, and Team Englewood Academy High School.
Before Wednesday’s meeting, where Jackson was officially confirmed by the school board as the permanent leader of the 370,000 school system, Dr. Leon Finney Jr., founder of the Woodlawn Community Development Corporation, said this is a strong move for the Englewood community economically. The schools to be closed have low enrollment for their capacities, according to Finney and CPS.
“How are you going to keep [the schools] open and justify the infrastructure costs?” Finney asked. He hopes the new school will attract families back into the community and be a “catalyst” to the economy there.
Almost 90 percent of students in Englewood currently leave their neighborhood to attend a different high school and the construction of the new high school would create 256 full-time jobs if the proposal is approved, according to the Jan. 5 press release.
Englewood resident Hermalene Jones, who has an 11-year-old granddaughter, Shirley, in the CPS system, is in support of the new high school because she hopes it will bring in the right teachers. Jones was among a small group of people declaring support for Jackson outside of CPS headquarters before Wednesday’s board meeting began.
Mark Ritter, an organizer with the Chicago Teachers Union and former history teacher at Hyde Park High School, sees the new school proposal as a political tactic leading up to the 2019 elections for mayor and other city posts. Ritter would rather see the city put the money into rejuvenating the four high schools, rather than closing them. “It was a system set up for failure and it’s a political ploy to make people happy before the city election,” Ritter said. He believes the high schools have been neglected by the city for many years instead of being invested in and creating new programs with them.