New high school to serve Back of the Yards, Bridgeport
July 2, 2010

A new high school at 4700 S. Hoyne Ave. will provide improved facilities while making the community more cohesive.

By Dan Kolen

Public high school amenities in the Bridgeport and Back of the Yards communities have been limited. Starting in 2013, however, things will be looking up for teenagers in those communities as a new public high school for more than 1,200 students will open in the neighborhood at 4700 S. Hoyne Ave.

The City originally targeted opening the school in 2012 but later pushed the date back to 2014. Even that timing was “uncertain,” according to Alderman George Cardenas (12th Ward). With a strong community push, however, officials set plans to open in 2013.

Financing the project, finding the right location, clearing the lot, and being mindful of violence in certain areas all contributed to the delay, according to Cardenas.

“Instead of me beating a dead horse, and trying to finish it for the 2012 school year, we will now finish it in December 2012 or early 2013,” Cardenas said. “In talking to Chicago Public Schools [CPS], we had to be realistic. It just could not possibly have been done for the start of the 2012 school year.”

With drop-out rates climbing close to 70% at some schools in the area, coupled with the lack of one community school tying the neighborhood together, residents called for a better option for their children.

“You have students going to six or seven different feeder schools,” Cardenas said. “It’s challenging enough economically and socially to have to go to different high schools all the time.”

A new high school at 4700 S. Hoyne Ave. will provide improved facilities while making the community more cohesive.
Plans for the school include 26 classrooms, five computer labs, six science labs, a swimming pool, a scene-making shop for plays, and four classrooms devoted to the arts. “From the heavy enrollment numbers at the neighborhood schools in the area there is no question of need,” said CPS spokesperson Frank Shuftan. “Our goal is to have a successful neighborhood school that is good for the community.”

Adelfio Garcia, principal at Hedges Elementary on south Winchester Avenue, is supportive and looking forward to the beginning of construction. Once his students graduate from Hedges, he feels they have to travel through several “dangerous” areas to get to their current high school. The new high school will present a “safer, closer environment” and an “amazing resource” for his students, he said.

“Better educated students will make for a better educated community,” Garcia said. “The high school will provide a strong foundation for the community and will provide fine arts for the students. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”

Funding for the school comes from the Modern Schools for Chicago (MSC) initiative, which is using tax increment financing (TIF) for a $1 billion expenditure affecting more than 25 schools currently operating or to be built. Each TIF region raises its own taxes to support the MSC. Of the $19 million needed for the new high school, $6.7 million will come from the 47th/Ashland TIF and the other $12.3 million will come from the 47th/Halsted TIF in the 3rd Ward.

Many in the neighborhood are excited about the opportunity to create a more cohesive community through the new high school.

Tilden Achievement Academy High School has a 68% drop-out rate, and Richards High School has a drop-out rate of 48%. The community looks forward to better results from the new school.

“The students can really bond like in no way that they have before,” Cardenas said. “They can be proud of their community.”

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