A new proposal aims to merge four South Side high schools in one of the Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods in an effort to create a “state-of-the-art neighborhood high school,” Chicago Public Schools announced Friday.
The proposal would merge Harper, Hope, Robeson and TEAM Englewood high schools as part of a $75 million plan to build a new facility where Robeson currently sits.
According to CPS, the move would hopefully “attract area students by building on the surging academic progress in the area’s elementary schools.”
Currently, the Englewood community’s high school student population is the sixth highest in Chicago, but 41 percent of students travel four or more miles to attend schools outside the area.
“More Englewood high schoolers leave their community to attend high school than any other community in Chicago, with only 11 percent of students attending neighborhood high schools in the community,” CPS said in a statement.
The investment follows a request from the Community Action Council seeking a new school in the neighborhood last month after several community meetings and a survey of residents.
“As we’ve heard from members of the community, every parent dreams of sending their child to a high quality schools, and this is the kind of high school that is truly a dream come true for many parents,” Chief Education Officer Janice K. Jackson said in a statement. “While we plan to build a modern and beautiful facility, the heart of this building will be the top-notch learning that happens in the classrooms that inspires lifelong passions. We look forward to working with the community to design the type of academic programming that will help Englewood students achieve their dreams.”
Still, the Chicago Teachers Union said closing schools could be harmful for students and teachers.
“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 union said in a statement. “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.”
The union argued that “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.”
The school would open in the fall of 2019, officials said, with Robeson staying open during construction.
An information session will be held July 19, officials said, noting that ensuring safety will be a key focus of community conversations.
“By building a modern neighborhood high school with excellent academic programming, we believe that this could quickly become one of the strongest high schools in the city,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a statement.