WEST TOWN — A growing charter school located on the campus of a CPS neighborhood school shuttered in 2013 celebrated its larger digs on Friday with a ribbon cutting presided over by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and retired Exelon CEO John Rowe.
Wearing navy and white uniforms, the Rowe Middle School students sat in the sun-filled lobby of their new school, 1420 W. Augusta Blvd, as Aldermen Walter Burnett (27th) and Brian Hopkins (2nd), Rowe Middle School principal Tony Sutton, Rowe and Mayor Rahm Emanuel addressed the young scholars.
"When we cut this ribbon, yes, we are cutting it on a beautiful new building, but we are making sure another generation of Chicago has a brighter future, because everyone tells you, not those kids, not from that background, not from that zip code," Emanuel said. " ... But when they say that, I want to say, 'Come to Rowe and see what I see.' "
Burnett praised Northwestern Settlement, which runs the school, and its director Ron Manderschied, who bid to buy a building on the former campus of Peabody School so that the neighboring Rowe elementary, which was "packed to the gills," as Mandershied previously put it, could expand and add a middle school.
"You are all very blessed to be associated with an organization like the Northwestern Settlement. This school had a bid; it lost it to a developer, but Ron Manderschied did not give up. This school is a choice," Burnett told the students.
Named in honor of John Rowe, Exelon Corp.'s CEO, Rowe Middle School serves 350 students in grades 6-8.
Rowe Middle School opened last year after the nearby Rowe Elementary, at 1424 N. Cleaver St., which serves about 700 students, got the OK from the School Board to renew its charter for another five years and add a middle school.
Rowe Elementary opened in 2009 and is run by the settlement association, a nonprofit founded in 1891. The group has long held its offices at 1400 W. Augusta Blvd., next door to the former Peabody School.
Buffalo Grove-based developer Svigos Assets Management bought the shuttered school's campus, including Peabody's "Annex" building, for $3.5 million in 2014.
Plans to turn the Peabody School "Annex" one-story building into the Rowe Middle School campus and add a second level were announced in 2015. The Annex was a satellite building that housed Peabody's administrative offices and preschool. The main Peabody school building at 1444 W. Augusta Blvd. was recently landmarked in advance of a conversion to apartments.
Maggie Arden, a spokeswoman for Northwestern Settlement, said the combined elementary and middle schools have a little more than 1,000 scholars enrolled for the 2017-2018 school year — about 10 percent more than the "just under 900" the schools served last year.
At the close of the 2014-2015 school year when Rowe's expansion was announced, the elementary school had 684 students.
Arden said that Rowe draws its students "from 85 percent of Chicago's zip codes," including the far Northwest Side and neighborhoods near the Indiana border.
The school day runs from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Rowe nixed an early dismissal on Wednesdays in favor of longer days all week, Arden said.
Emanuel introduced the scholars to the Yiddish word, "nachas," and told them that nachas means immense pride, and if he were their parent, he could not be more proud of them.
Emanuel piled praise on the school.
"Rowe Elementary embraces what I think is the most important thing about education, and that is that if you have a parent that is involved, a teacher that motivates, a principal that's willing to be held accountable, then I don't care where a child comes from, the zip code, the back ground, they're going to succeed," Emanuel said.
Designed by architecture firm Wheeler and Kearns, the 24,000-square-foot middle school building features 15 classrooms, one special education room, three outdoor exercise areas and an outdoor garden.
Hopkins, whose sprawling 2nd Ward now encompasses Rowe Middle School (it was formerly in Burnett's 27th Ward) described Rowe and Rowe's wife, Jean Rowe, who serves as a volunteer tutor at the school, as "generous and wise."
Hopkins told the students that the Rowe Middle School expansion is the first project he has seen through from the groundbreaking to the completion of construction.