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Northwest Side Schools Remain Some of the City's Most Crowded, Data Shows

By Heather Cherone | October 23, 2014 5:05am
 Taft High School remains the most crowded high school in the city.
Taft High School remains the most crowded high school in the city.
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DNAInfo/Josh McGhee

NORWOOD PARK — Students are still crammed into every nook and cranny of classrooms across the Far Northwest Side, where public schools remain some of the most crowded in the city, according to enrollment data released by Chicago Public Schools officials.

Taft High School in Norwood Park remains the largest and most crowded public high school in Chicago, with 3,233 students studying in a building meant for 2,184 pupils. 

Taft added 38 students this school year, bringing its utilization rate to 148 percent, according to CPS data.

Heather Cherone says CPS faces difficulties adjusting to the changing neighborhoods:

While Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said ending overcrowding is a part of CPS' strategy "to ensure our students will live up to their full potential,” the utilization rates at several elementary schools on the Northwest Side increased or stayed the same.

Enrollment at Dirksen Elementary School in O'Hare grew by 4 percent, on par with most other schools in the area. It has a utilization rate of 155 percent, among the highest in the city.

But the school has an eight-classroom modular building, giving the school an adjusted utilization rate of 116 percent and a rating of "efficient," according to data provided by CPS.

Ald. Mary O'Connor (41st) has vowed to address overcrowding at Dirksen.

At Dever Elementary School, in Dunning, 846 students study in a building meant for 720.

Dever Local School Council Member Kerry Murphy on Wednesday pleaded with the Chicago Board of Education to address overcrowding at the school, which has the money to hire another teacher — but nowhere for him or her to teach.

"Things are not getting better," Murphy said, adding that the parent-teacher association often meets on the school's front steps because of a lack of space.

In addition, the new requirement that schools offer physical education every day means dance is held in the school multipurpose room — which is separated from the school's gym and cafeteria by only a thin, moveable divider — at the same time as other students eat lunch and have recess, Murphy said. 

Enrollment grew by 2.7 percent at Bridge Elementary School in Dunning, which increased its utilization rate to 133 percent. The school operates on two campuses, with the junior high separated from the lower grades.

Ald. Nicholas Sposato (36th) said he was working to address the overcrowding at Bridge.

Meanwhile, construction projects have eased overcrowding at two Far Northwest Side schools.

Hitch Elementary School in Gladstone Park, which was the most crowded public elementary school in the city last year, got an eight-classroom modular building.

Prussing Elementary School added a third modular building with six classrooms to its Jefferson Park campus.

In addition, annexes under construction at Oriole Park Elementary School and Wildwood Elementary School are expected to open in time for the start of the 2015-16 school year.

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