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New Englewood High School Gets Boost From Rahm

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke at a roundtable budget discussion Thursday.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel spoke at a roundtable budget discussion Thursday.
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DNAinfo/Tanveer Ali

ENGLEWOOD — The coveted new state-of-the-art high school that South Side neighborhoods have been vying for has a chance of coming to Englewood, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Tuesday.

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

At a news conference Tuesday about the city’s Department of Fleet and Facility Management relocating its headquarters to Englewood, the mayor mentioned the possibility of building a high school in the community.

“We’re talking about a new high school in this area,” he said, while he was at the old Kennedy-King College site in Englewood.

 Paul Robeson High School in Englewood.
Paul Robeson High School in Englewood.
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DNAinfo/Justin Breen

The topic came up as he was describing what it’ll take to have a more "vibrant and safe community." He discussed the importance of investing in education, after-school programs and summer jobs along with new technology for police officers.

Later, a source in the mayor’s office acknowledged that Emanuel mentioned a “prospective new high school for Englewood during an event in the community” but said that there have been no formal plans or a location set just yet.

A neighborhood leader who has been involved in talks about the high school said that that community leaders met with CPS officials to discuss the possible high school last week. The official said Englewood is a front-runner to get the school, which had also been eyed for Chinatown and Roseland, among other locations.

Officials with the Greater Englewood Community Action Council could not be reached.

CPS officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

There have been no updates or formal meetings with either the mayor or CPS, Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) said regarding the new high school. He said the last meeting was around Christmas.

He told DNAinfo last January at a community meeting that all options have been discussed. That means that a current school could close, he said, although he wouldn’t want to see that happen. His ward includes Robeson, a low enrollment Level 3 School, which he acknowledged has had problems.  

Although he would like a new school, he said, the decision will come down to who can benefit the most from a new school.

“We want to ensure that the entire community will be benefited,” Sawyer said. He also said the district should do all it can to "keep and retain all of our top students" and attempt to make all schools better.

Low enrollment has been a big issue for the area’s high schools, and a new high school could mean other schools close.

The Sun-Times reported that five South Side high schools with 150 or fewer students could be in danger.

There has been a 28 percent decline in high school-age residents living in the Englewood schools' boundaries between 2008 and 2015, according to CPS data. And 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 those 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, meanwhile, 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, said CPS Network Chief Megan Hougard, who oversees 42 schools in the area.