Proposal aims to consolidate under-enrolled high schools in Englewood

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There is a proposal to consolidate several under-enrolled high schools in Chicago?s Englewood neighborhood into a brand new school. (WLS)

When 50 schools were closed in 2013, high schools were spared. But a five year school closing moratorium expires in 2018, and because of declining population and students choosing to go elsewhere several Englewood high schools are under-enrolled. Now a proposal makes closing those schools and consolidating students into one brand new school a possibility.

Team Englewood High School's freshman class is only 15 students. A few blocks south, 23 freshman are enrolled at Paul Robeson high school. To the west Harper High School is big enough for 1,400 students but only a couple hundred attend. A plan is being floated to possibly close these schools and build one brand new high school.

"Being able to show that we are investing in the neighborhood is a good thing. I applaud the mayor for thinking forward, but we have to do it strategically by using resources in the best possible way," said Alderman Raymond Lopez, 15th Ward.

Chicago Public Schools has set aside $75 million to build a South Side high school, but has not named a location. In a written statement, CPS said, "We will continue to listen to the community's feedback before moving forward or making specific recommendations about project details."

But with so many under-enrolled Englewood schools and new investments like Whole Foods, Englewood is reportedly the city's preferable choice.

"School closings does not lead to school improvements, we know this now, right? So iff that is what CPS is trying to do then the process has to be a lot more open," said Jitu Brown, Journey for Justice Alliance.

Brown, an education activist, successfully fought to keep Dyett High School open. He hopes CPS allows the community to decide before making any investments, and some Englewood residents doubt a brand new school is the best way to spend money.

"How about taking that money and building a new facility for kids when they are out of school so they can be safe when they're out of school," said Takyra Young, Englewood resident.

Before building a new school and risking students crossing gang lines, Ald. Lopez said the city should consider creative options like turning existing under-enrolled high schools into K-12 schools. And while Englewood is being considered, for yeas residents in Chinatown have bene asking for a new high school.
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