CPS changes mind on Crane, wants health sciences school
April 5, 2012

By Monica Staton

Chicago Public Schools (CPS) administrators appear to have changed their minds about closing Richard T. Crane Technical Preparatory High School. CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard recently announced a plan to make Crane Chicago’s first public high school dedicated to preparing students for careers or for post-secondary education in the health sciences.

Commonly known as Crane Tech Prep or Crane Tech High School, the public high school is located at 2245 W. Jackson Blvd. On Nov. 30, 2011, CPS announced it would close or phase out several schools, including Crane.The planwould have phased out Crane by no longer accepting freshman students (routing them instead to Wells, Manley, Marshall, or Farragut high schools) and then closing Crane after the 2014-2015 school year.

“Members of the Crane community made a compelling case for retaining a neighborhood high school in West Haven/Near West Side community, and CPS worked with them to develop this plan,” said Frank Shuftan of the Chicago Public Schools Office of Communications.

Ernest Gates, executive director of the Near West Side Community Development Corp., and 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett were instrumental in formulating the plan for the new Crane High School.
Gates sees the changes as a potential success, saying, “I’m optimistic about anything that will increase employment opportunities and students’ knowledge base.”

Officials organized the Crane Transformation Task Force, consisting of CPS and Crane Coalition representatives, parents, teachers, and community leaders. The group will develop a strategic plan to restart the school and work together to overcome a history of low performance that has persisted at Crane despite significant financial investment by CPS.

Technically, the CPS board did not vote for turnaround action for Crane. Instead, it voted to phase out the existing Crane and then create a new health sciences high school at Crane to open in the fall of 2013 with its first class of ninthgraders.

Crane’s name will remain the same. Although some involved in the effort had discussedmaking Crane a charter school, CPS will run the new Crane. The task force seeks to restore Crane’s reputation as one of Chicago’s premier high schools and will develop its curriculum in collaboration with partners such as the Crane Coalition.

It also will collaborate with Malcolm X City College to develop community college coursework at Crane and with the Illinois Medical District community to create an on-the-job training program for Crane students. Officials have not selected a principal and staff yet.

Gates sees “no reason why Mr. Richard Smith wouldn’t remain as principal.”He alsohopes that, “after four years of education in the new Crane curriculum, young adults can go right into the job market.”

Crane will be open to students in the neighborhood; CPS will work with the task force on specifics for admission and enrollment, which ultimately must be approved by the CPS board.

Officials will continue to measure Crane using the CPS Performance Policy, just like any other school, which takes into account metrics such as test scores, attendance, and drop-out rates.

Students who prefer a program different from that offered at Crane may to another CPS high school. Ten members from the Crane Coalition will serve on the task force, which will have more than 20 members. The coalition is accepting task force applications; meetings for the group have not been scheduled yet but will begin soon.

The CPS board did approve sharing the Crane facility with the charter school Talent Development High School (TDHS). Changes to the existing Crane building will be made specifically for TDHS, including interior refinishing such as flooring, painting, and lighting.

Also, workers will build separation doors between the two schools. Current Crane students will be able to finish their academic careers at the existing Crane High School and be granted access to additional academic and other resources. Eighth-grade students living within Crane boundaries will be offered a range of high school options for fall 2012.

In recent years, the Crane community has struggled with violence. During the 2007–2008 school year, one student was fatally shot and another severely beaten. Crane currently is in the 2nd Ward but will be in Burnett’s 27th Ward when the new City Ward map goes into effect in 2015.

“I’m being very diplomatic because Crane is out ofmy ward now, but I support the ideas of the coalition,” said Burnett.