DOWNTOWN — The Chicago Public Schools Board of Education voted Wednesday to kick-start the design process for a "middle school project" in the Read-Dunning area, whose enrollment and attendance boundaries have yet to be decided.
The city's Public Building Commission unveiled its intention to build the school, which would hold about 1,300 students, at a Jan. 31 public meeting. At the same meeting, Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38th) teased a proposal to open the school as a satellite campus for Taft High School's freshmen and academic center students.
The school is slated to open at the intersection of Irving Park Road and Oak Park Avenue in time for the 2019-20 school year.
Sposato on Wednesday called the "middle school" label ascribed by the commission and the CPS board a "space-saver," adding that the district is "not remotely close" to a decision on whether the school will be a Taft satellite, an independent high school or something else.
"There's no gun to our head to make a decision on this right now," Sposato said. "Enrollment trends and demographics could change between now and two years from now ... so in the meantime we'll be making the rounds, going to [Local School Council] meetings and looking for people's input."
Taft principal Mark Grishaber has lobbied hard in support of the alderman's proposal for a "Taft South," arguing that it could be the only way to relieve the school's overcrowding without stripping the resources that have helped Taft, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., climb to level 1 status.
But a vocal "task force" of Dunning parents is advocating for the building to open as an independent high school, saying the neighborhood had long been promised its own four-year institution, including by Sposato.
At the same time, students and teachers at Steinmetz College Prep High School, 3030 N. Mobile Ave., have questioned why the $75 million school is being built at all, when the neighboring Steinmetz is hemorrhaging enrollment and enduring bone-deep budget cuts.
Sposato called Wednesday's board of education vote a "positive step" but added that it was "just a formality," as district officials had been pining to develop the site for at least a decade.
Also on Wednesday, the board passed a resolution calling for the commission to start designing annexes for Prussing Elementary School, 4650 N. Menard Ave., and Ebinger Elementary School, 7350 W. Pratt Ave., both announced earlier this year.
Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) personally thanked the board for its vote to build on Ebinger Wednesday, but he vowed to "keep the quest going" to get a similar addition for Dirksen Elementary School, 8601 W. Foster Ave., now operating around 160 percent capacity.
"I'm here to say thank you ... for listening to Ebinger and the scores of parents who came down here worried about the overcrowded school," said Napolitano, whose own three children attend Ebinger. "You have brought relief, you have brought smiles to the children, you have brought a different feeling to the community that we thought we weren't going to have."