CPS proposes merging 4 schools into new Englewood High School

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's Englewood community is one step closer to getting a brand new high school.

The new $75 million school would replace four aging South Side schools and would be located near 68th Street and Normal Avenue where Robeson High School is located.

Only 11 percent of Englewood high schoolers attend school inside their own community, the lowest level of anywhere in the city. It is part of the reason CPS said they selected Englewood as the site of a brand-new South Side high school.

If all goes according to plan, a football field could soon be the site of Englewood's first new high school in nearly 40 years. Taking the place of Robeson High School, the proposed school would merge Robeson, Harper, Hope and TEAM Englewood into a single state-of-the-art facility beginning in the fall of 2019.

"There are thousands of children who live in this community who deserve a high quality high school, who deserve to be able to go to a school within their community and not travel four miles to get to a high quality school," Chief Education Officer Janice K. Jackson said.

The project carries with it a $75 million price tag, which CPS said would be covered in part by tax levy approved by City Council last year. It currently costs the district about $114 million to operate the schools selected for merger, all of which are under-enrolled.

"I'm not going to be over-dramatic, there are like 80 students in each building," said TEAM Englewood High School student Jakobe Mimms.

Englewood was among several South Side communities lobbying for a new school. It's something the neighborhood's community action network has been working on for a long time.

"I went from door-to-door talking to parents we had local school council meetings, we had our PAC meetings, we even talked to the students," said Darlene O'Banner of the Englewood Community Action Council.

It's not yet known how the proposed consolidation would affect the four schools' teachers. CTU says they oppose it.

"We were told last time that school closings were going to save money and it cost money. Again, this is a headline, it's not a plan," CTU's Stacy Davis Gates said.

The proposal is not a done deal and many things need to be worked out, including a security plan with the merging of students from different areas. In the meantime, enrollment for the coming year for all four schools will remain unchanged.

The school will be open enrollment and is slated to open in time for the 2019-2020 school year.

The first information session for public feedback will be held Wednesday, July 19 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Parker Elementary School, 6800 S. Stewart Avenue.

In response to the proposal, the Chicago Teachers Union released a statement saying, "The Chicago Teachers Union supports well-resourced school communities that help our students pursue their dreams and open doors, but we know far too well that school closings can lead to feelings of abandonment and a loss of learning. The teachers and staff at Harper, Hope, Robeson and TEAM Englewood not only provide stability in their students' lives, but also create classroom spaces where students can connect with one another, process their experiences and help make decisions about their communities.

"With unemployment at Great Depression-era levels in Englewood, a forced mass exodus of African-American families out of Chicago, violence epidemic and affordable housing shortage, school closings are another way for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to sabotage the community at its time of greatest need. Consolidating four high schools into one building is the mayor doubling down on a disastrous and irresponsible gentrification scheme that has already removed scores of African-American residents from the city.

"Many of the teachers and staff at these schools are African-American women who have already experienced consolidations and closures at schools such as South Shore and Calumet high schools. Getting rid of these educators, who anchor a destabilized community through their knowledge and economic support, will exacerbate the mayor's already heinous neglect.

"Instead of closing schools, we should be fortifying them. Instead of pushing families out of the community through the acceleration of high-end developments, we need to provide housing near our schools, a public sector jobs program and a robust array of services and supports inside of our school buildings to address the needs of our communities."
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