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West Side Schools to Get Playgrounds, STEM-Based Classrooms, Mayor Says

By DNAinfo Staff on September 17, 2013 12:44pm

  The projects will be paid for by $24 million in TIF money and completed by fall 2014.
West Side Schools to Get Playgrounds, STEM-Based Classrooms, Mayor Says
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EAST GARFIELD PARK — Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Tuesday announced $24 million in funding to add playgrounds, update buildings and improve science and math programs at seven neighborhood schools.

All of the projects, paid for by Tax Increment Financing funds, will begin next spring and conclude by fall 2014.

The mayor was unavailable for questions after Tuesday's announcement, which comes after Emanuel made similar announcements about school construction projects on the Far North Side and the Southeast Side earlier this week.

Tuesday's announcement was made at Al Raby High School, 3545 W. Fulton Blvd., which will have several new classrooms aimed at Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education, including a new engineering-focused computer lab, a TV studio and food science labs.

Student Tavarion Troupe, 16, said he was most excited about a new mock courtroom.

"It seems like a fun way to make decisions around the school," said Troupe, a junior.

Other improvements at Raby will include fully air conditioning the building, upgrading the elevator and improving heating, electrical and plumbing systems.

Nearby Faraday and Melody elementary schools will receive new lab space and media classrooms with the hope that students will continue on to Raby.

"They will be ready to come here to Al Raby and have the foundation in STEM," the mayor said.

Students are required to apply to Raby, which has a lottery if more people apply than space allows.

The $24 million also will go toward building four playgrounds and reconfiguring traffic at Tilton, Jensen, Ericson and Spencer elementary schools.

That news excited Spencer Principal Shawn Jackson, who asked the mayor for a new playground last school year.

"The kids deserve it to help them in this impoverished area," Jackson said. "I didn't think at all that this was going to happen."

The mayor previously announced plans to build an annex to relieve crowding at Wildwood Elementary in Edgebrook and plans to build a school to ease crowding at Gallistel Elementary on the Southeast Side.