$75M merger to combine Englewood high schools

$75M merger to combine Englewood high schools

By Blaise Mesa

After continuous declining enrollment, four Englewood high schools will merge into one new $75 million facility in the same neighborhood, with community leaders involved in the planning and development process . 

Four Englewood neighborhood high schools have seen an average enrollment decline of 26.8 percent since last school year. These include TEAM Englewood Community Academy High School, 6201 Stewart Ave.; Paul Robeson High School, 6835 S. Normal Blvd.; W.R. Harper Senior High School, 6520 Wood St.; and Hope High School, 5515 S. Lowe Ave. TEAM Englewood High School experienced the most devastating decline at 41 percent, according to a Sept. 29 DNAinfo article. 

Chicago Public Schools and the four high schools involved did not respond to requests for enrollment numbers as of press time. 

The new building will be on the site of Robeson High School and will welcome its first freshmen class in 2019. The school has yet to be named. In order to help launch the school, CPS has formed a 13-person steering committee of local leaders. 

The committee will meet monthly to discuss potential curriculum, staff recommendations, recruitment strategies and safety strategies with help from the local police district, according to Asiaha Butler, steering committee member and co-founder and president of Residents Association of Greater Englewood.

“Families, educators and community leaders in Englewood have a strong vision for what they hope their new high school will be, and we want to incorporate that,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a Sept. 28 press release.

Englewood students have been opting for schools outside the neighborhood. Englewood—the sixth largest community population in Chicago—has 41 percent of its students traveling four miles or more to go to schools outside the community, according to a June 9 CPS press release.

“A lot of kids aren’t considering local community schools because they don’t have those resources,” said Perry Gunn, a steering committee member and executive director of Teamwork Englewood. 

The new facility should be state-of-the art and an improvement compared to the four old schools, Claypool said in the June 9 press release. 

CPS will develop a safety approach similar to the Safe Passage program, which maintains safe routes to schools for students, according to the June 9 press release.

According to Chicago’s Data Portal, Englewood ranked fifth in violent crimes since Sept. 11.

Schools with decreased enrollment can lead to gangs and violence, said Gloria Williams, founder of Voices of West Englewood and a steering committee member. 

Discussion of the merger has been ongoing for the past year as CPS worked with the Englewood Community Action Council to obtain public comment. CPS and the action council have surveyed 1,200 locals and hosted community events to receive comments on the school’s design.

“Our feedback, our thoughts [and] our intention is to make sure the community voice is truly heard,” Butler said.

Steering committees serve as a voice for the communities like Englewood’s is a voice for its own.

“In order for the kids to advance in school, they have to have great education,” Williams said.