For the first time in the city’s history, there will be a selective enrollment college prep school and a new vocational education magnet school sharing the same location.
The two replacement schools, which begin construction in 2006 and will open in the fall of 2008, will replace Westinghouse High School, which had been exclusively a vocational education school. Each school will house approximately 600 students. Its proposed development is expected to cost upwards of $47 million.
“Together, these two new schools will be the jewel of the West Side, offering high quality educational options to young people in this neighborhood and throughout the Chicagoland area,” said Mayor Richard Daley at a press conference at Westinghouse, located at 3301 W. Franklin Blvd.
The conference, which was held at the end of April, was also attended by Arne Duncan, CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, who said, “This is a great day for the West Side. We have always needed a selective enrollment high school in this community, and we are also continuing the Westinghouse tradition of training young people for jobs.”
There has been a great demand for a selective enrollment high school on the West Side in recent years. More than 1,700 students living in communities surrounding Westinghouse applied for one of the eight selective enrollment high schools this year, but only 233 were accepted, due to the lack of available space in the city’s elite public schools.
The current Westinghouse, which is located in a former factory building, is not technically a neighborhood school?”meaning it has no specific attendance area?”but, rather, attracts students from throughout Chicago. Approximately one-third of the current Westinghouse student body comes from the surrounding community.
The new Westinghouse will have separate admissions policies for each school. The selective enrollment school will use the same admissions system as the other eight selective enrollment high schools in Chicago, such as Whitney Young and Walter Payton.
One spokeswoman for the CPS said, “Through interviews, the vocational high school will identify students particularly interested in vocational education, similar to other specialized high schools, such as the Bronzeville Military Academy.”
The spokeswoman also said that at least 30 percent of the seats in the vocational education high school will be set aside for community residents to ensure that they have access to the school.
“High school students are not all the same,” Duncan said. “Some need an academically challenging environment and some need a curriculum focused on job training. This school fortunately is going to have both.”
The new Westinghouse High School is the aixth new high school to be built since Mayor Daley took control of the school system in 1995. Since then, CPS has also built 30 new elementary schools, (including the new Al Raby school on the West Side under the Renaissance 2010 program) and approximately 70 additions, both to relieve overcrowding and replace deteriorating facilities.
In total, CPS has invested over $4 billion on the upgrading and rebuilding of schools over the last 10 years, with 85 percent coming from local taxpayers, 14 percent coming from the state and 1 percent coming from the federal government.
In the coming months, Chicago Public Schools officials will work with community residents and leaders to identify areas of focus for the vocational high school to ensure that they are aligned with the job market of the future.
Under the construction plan, the existing Westinghouse will remain open while the new school is under construction, so no students will be displaced. When the new school opens, the existing Westinghouse will be torn down for athletic fields.