SOUTH LOOP — The mayor and his school chief cheered the expanded new Jones College Prep Tuesday ahead of next week's first day of the school year.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Chicago Public Schools Chief Executive Officer Barbara Byrd-Bennett took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the $115 million, seven-story addition to Jones College Prep at 700 S. State St. It will eventually almost double the high school's capacity from 900 to 1,700 students.
"It will add significant additional selective-enrollment seats," Byrd-Bennett said.
Earlier this year, 18,000 city students applied for the 3,000 available slots at CPS selective-enrollment high schools this fall. About 11,000 applied for what would have been 250 spots at Jones, now padded with an additional 125 for incoming freshmen.
Over the next four years, Jones will add 500 selective-enrollment students and another 300 specializing in pre-law and pre-engineering, curricula that will accommodate local students who test into the programs, starting with 75 this fall.
The $115 million construction was entirely paid by Tax Increment Finance district development funds, which will also pay for the rehabilitation of the old Jones College Prep building just to the north of the new facility.
"There's no greater investment than what is happening here for the City of Chicago," Emanuel said.
Yet Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd) repeated calls for a neighborhood high school instead of augmenting a selective-enrollment school serving all of the city.
"It's a great building. We welcome it," Fioretti said. "But it's still not a neighborhood high school to serve the community.
"Wherever you go, people are saying they need a neighborhood school in the South Loop," Fioretti said, referring to both an elementary school and a high school. Between the South Loop, Bronzeville, the West Loop and Downtown, he said, "There are enough high-school-age kids to attend a neighborhood school."
Fioretti said local residents are looking for something similar to the newly completed Back of the Yards High School. "They feel they don't have it, and they're looking elsewhere," he said, and many are considering a move to the suburbs.
"I know the community is very dissatisfied with the way CPS and the mayor have handled the opportunity to create a neighborhood school here," Fioretti said. "I see this administration attacking neighborhood schools, and there is no progress, and the destruction of neighborhood schools is leading to the destruction of our communities."
Emanuel was asked if Fioretti had not been invited to the Jones College Prep news conference. "He can come if he wants," Emanuel said. "Nobody's ever gotten in his way from what he wants."
Fioretti was on site at the time taking a tour of the new school and said he tried to come in at the end, but was told no one was allowed in while the news conference was in session.
The expanded Jones College Prep formally opens Monday.