CHICAGO (CBS) — Hundreds of families in Englewood are celebrating the opening of a new $85 million high school, but to make way for that school, the neighborhood had to lose four others.
The new Englewood STEM High School replaces Robeson, Hope, Harper and TEAM Englewood high schools, which the district has said struggled with low enrollment and poor performance.
Over the last 10 years, enrollment at those schools dropped 70% to 85%, according to CPS. The district said about 90% of students in Englewood were attending schools outside the neighborhood.
CPS Chief Executive Officer Dr. Janice Jackson said last year that enrollment at the four old high schools in Englewood was so low, students were offered only the basic minimum classes and activities.
“They don’t have access to advanced placement courses. They don’t have access to all the sports, school activities, and all the other things that make up a rich high school experience,” she said.
Officials emphasized the new school is not based on selective enrollment, but is an open enrollment neighborhood school.
Englewood parents have high hopes for the new school.
“It’s a fresh start, because most of the other schools was on probation. So hopefully it’s a better school and better academics; better opportunity,” Englewood STEM parent Charnell Woods said.
CPS hopes the new Englewood STEM High School will provide a better quality education, improved facilities, and more opportunities for students.
The three-story building has an outdoor sports facility, and a school-based medical center designed to prepare students for high-demand careers in science and technology.
“I think it’s great. I like the opportunities that they may have,” parent Keon Price said.
More than 400 freshmen have registered for the school year at Englewood STEM. Those freshmen will be the big men (and women) on campus, as they’re the only students this school year. Another new class will be added each year until Englewood STEM has a full 9th through 12th grade slate in the fall of 2022.
“I want you to know that we love you, and that we are committed to your success,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot told students as she helped ring the bell for the first day of class.
Two of the schools Englewood STEM is replacing already have closed. Robeson closed last year, and the new school was built in its place. TEAM Englewood graduated its last class of seniors in June.
Hope and Harper high schools are still open, but being phased out. They won’t take any new students, but current students can finish out their high school careers at those schools if they choose.
While many families in the neighborhood welcome the new school, others opposed the district’s plan to close Robeson, Hope, Harper, and TEAM Englewood.
Opponents of the plan said the $85 million spent building the new school should have gone to improving the existing schools instead.
At the time of the school board’s decision to close those schools, the Chicago Teachers Union said closing schools proved to be a disaster for CPS in 2013.
The union said the closings didn’t improve enrollment at other schools, and rather convinced many families to leave the city entirely.