Mayor Daley rings in school year

24 new, rejuvenated schools open
September 8, 2009 (CHICAGO) Classes resumed Tuesday for most students in the Chicago Public Schools system. Mayor Richard Daley and school officials are welcomed student back with motivating messages.

Mayor Daley rang the bell for the first day of school at Westinghouse College Prep., one of 24 new or rejuvenated schools to open for the 2009-2010 school year.

"The greatest gift I can give you as mayor is a good quality education. If I give you that you'll never have to depend on anybody standing up here," Mayor Richard Daley said. "You have the tools for life."

Incoming freshman at the Westinghouse are excited about the state-of-the-art building. The new school, which was closed in 2007, now it boasts 240,000-square feet with a business academy program, a medical academy, Mandarin Chinese classes, and a program in broadcast journalism.

"If there is something I'm going to focus on, I think it's going to be the broadcasting alright." Javier Solano, student and future reporter.

"It's going to be fun because it's a new school and it has a lot of different new programs that they are offering us," said Mithalia Herrera, student.

"I'm a college prep and doing accounting," said John Williams, student

Forty-eight percent of the students are from the school's district on the city's West Side. Other students were hand-picked by the principal. Westinghouse- and the other new or rejuvenated schools- are part of the mayor's Renaissance 2010 Initiative, which aims to create 100 new schools by 2010.

"In Chicago we're opening up five brand-new schools in brand-new buildings in state-of-the-art facilities. When you look in the country and look at the mayor who brought forth education in Chicago versus any other major city in the country, it is a shocking difference," said Ron Huberman, CEO, Chicago Public Schools.

Hernandez Middle School in Gage Park is one of the first green schools in the city. The community school emphasizes math and science.

"We want to erase those hurdles, those obstacles and have them learn in middle school, so when they get to high school they have higher scores and get into the colleges that we really want them to get into," said Minerva Garcia-Sanchez, principal Hernandez Middle School.

The city's first performing arts school also opened on Tuesday. Students there had to audition to get in- and have high academic scores. There are only 150 students in the freshman class.

"They had me do two monologues, a cold reading and two songs," said Tatyana Goana, musical theater major.

"I knew I wanted to pursue my education with music so I wouldn't have to do everything after school. Here I'm with people who care and who want what I want," said Ramona Butkute, piano major.

Changes implemented across the board at CPS schools include:

  • Free breakfast served at every CPS school, regardless of income
  • School buses outfitted with GPS systems
  • Fight the Violence initiative that identifies at risk children
  • On Tuesday, officials sent out letters to remind the public that they will be monitoring possible cases of H1N1 virus. Kids with symptoms will be told to stay home until they have been without issues for more than 24 hours.

    State funding- in part- depends on how many students show up for the first day of school. An added incentive: the Museum of Science and Industry and the Chicago Fire are giving out free tickets to those who attend school Tuesday.

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