Whether their aspirations are collegiate or culinary, 1,200 students will get a new high school on the West Side.
Plans for the $47 million facility, scheduled to open in 2008 and housing separate college prep and vocational educational programs under one roof, were announced Tuesday.
The two programs will have separate curricula and principals, but they will share a gym and lunchroom inside the 240,000-square-foot building at 3301 W. Franklin Blvd. in the impoverished neighborhood.
The facility will replace the 39-year-old Westinghouse Career Academy High School, known as “The House” to the approximately 150 community members who packed its recreation room for Tuesday’s announcement.
The old vocational high school will remain open until the new facility is completed. It will then be razed to make way for athletic fields.
“We’re going back to basic education,” Mayor Richard M. Daley said during an impassioned speech that drew a peppering of “Amens” and “That’s rights” from the audience of school officials, parents and clergymen.
Children need to be good readers so that they can “read the Bible,” Daley said, prompting whoops from the audience.
The college prep program will admit high-achieving students based on test scores and grades, while the vocational school will set a minimum standard for applicants.
“High school students are not all the same,” Chicago Public Schools CEO Arne Duncan said. “Some need an academically challenging environment and some need a curriculum focused on job training. We’re going to have both.”
Students could potentially switch between the two programs, officials said.
The facility will be the city’s sixth new high school since Daley took control of Chicago Public Schools in 1995. Daley has been promoting new vocational schools, saying the lack of quality vocational training has been a “failure.”
Alderman Ed Smith (28th Ward) said “it’s about time” the city build a new facility on the West Side, where a high school hasn’t been built in 29 years.
This year, 1,700 students from communities surrounding Westinghouse applied for admission to one of the city’s eight selective enrollment schools. Officials said only 233 were accepted due to space constraints.
Thirty percent of the seats in the new vocational high school will be reserved for neighborhood kids, officials said. The rest of the program and the college prep school will draw from the entire city.
The flashy design plans didn’t draw support from everyone in the audience. Parent Pamela Clayborn said school officials failed to explain how the neighborhood’s other schools would be improved for those kids not lucky enough to attend the new Westinghouse.
“What are you going to do about the kids who already go to school here [in the neighborhood]?” asked Clayborn, who added she was leaving the meeting with her questions unanswered.
Officials said construction, slated to begin in 2006, would be funded by tax increment financing (TIF) dollars, which will require City Council approval.