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Could Englewood Get A New High School?

By Andrea V. Watson | December 20, 2016 11:09am | Updated on December 21, 2016 10:57am
 Robeson, 6835 S. Normal, is one of the Englewood high schools that fell out of favor with neighborhood kids between 2008 and 2015.
Robeson, 6835 S. Normal, is one of the Englewood high schools that fell out of favor with neighborhood kids between 2008 and 2015.
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DNAinfo/Justin Breen

ENGLEWOOD — There could be a new high school coming to Englewood.

WBEZ reports that school officials want a new high school in Englewood and are considering consolidating other high schools in the area because of low enrollment.

Neighborhood leaders confirmed that this option is being discussed.

CPS, on its most recent list of capital projects in the works, lists "New Southside High School Construction" — with a $75 million price tag attached. Details of that project — including a location — have not been revealed.

“CPS’ priority is to ensure that all our students can learn in comfortable, modern facilities, where they can continue their tremendous academic progress,” said CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner. “For several of the building projects in the supplemental capital agenda, we will continue to listen to the community’s feedback before moving forward or making specific recommendations about project details.”

Englewood is losing its high school students to schools outside the neighborhood, according to Chicago Public Schools data. The information was presented to parents in March by Megan Hougard, who oversees 42 schools in the area, at the “State of Englewood Schools” presentation.

Between 2008 and 2015, there was a 28 percent decline in high school-age residents living in the attendance boundaries of Englewood schools, data provided at the meeting showed.

Of those students remaining in the community, many are choosing to go to schools outside the neighborhood, the data shows.

Back in 2008, for example, Robeson High School enrolled 74 percent of high school-age students who lived in its residential boundaries. But by 2015, only 13 percent of students who could go to Robeson actually did, the data showed. Of the 2,602 high school-age students living in the Robeson boundary, only 203 actually go to the school, the data shows.

Harper High School dropped from drawing 52 percent of the students in its residential area in 2008 to 20 percent in 2015. Hope High School drew 79 percent of students from its residential area in 2008, but only 26 percent in 2015.

Part of the reason for lower enrollment is that students are attending schools outside Englewood, Hougard said.

Sarah Rothschild Hainds, a researcher with the Chicago Teachers Union, told WBEZ there would likely be community support for a new school — if CPS were more transparent about its plans. 

“The shiny new school down the street that doesn’t have the reputation of gangs? That doesn’t have the reputation of any neglect? That’s going to have all kinds of bells and whistles. I mean, who would say no to that as a parent?” she told the station. “A brand new school next to the brand new Whole Foods. That sounds very enticing.”

Aysha Butler, president of the Resident Association of Greater Englewood, said her concern is that the possibility of a new school means more vacant school buildings. Englewood already has six, she said.

She said she wants to see CPS engaging with the community as it moves forward with its plans.

“Our neighborhood schools have been suffering, so we want the best education for our students,” Butler said.

She said the community is well aware that enrollment is extremely low in the neighborhood schools, partially blaming it on selective enrollment schools and the influx of charter schools in the area.

A state-of-the art school might attract more local residents, Butler said.

“A lot of times when you build something very shiny,people will come,” she said.

When Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th) was alderman in the 15th Ward, her area included Harper High School. She said her biggest concern is what kind of school a new building will be because charter schools have taken most of the top students.

“They’re recruiting at their homes and they’re taking Tier 1 students, the cream of the crop, and leaving students with academic problems and emotional problems,” Foulkes said. “So what type of school is this going to be? Alternative?”

Schools with low enrollment have still been accomplishing great things, Foulkes said.

“If you have [158] students they should be able to get more attention,” she said. “Harper doesn’t have a lot [of students] but they’re still graduating and kids still going to college despite the budget cuts. These kids aren’t all Tier 1.”   

Teamwork Englewood’s executive director Perry Gunn said that a new high school could be a good thing for Englewood.

“I think it's in the best interest of the community,” he said.

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