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Added Mar 01 2018

Construction and land clearing is underway at the corner of Irving and Oak Park. Yet, no one knows what the finished product will be, or who it will serve. Is this mystery school going to be a new 4 year high school serving the local area, or an annex for Taft High School? Or a high school at all? Why can't someone answer this question? Why is this project shrouded in secrecy akin to the Manhatten Project?

Dunning was named the #1 neighborhood in America by Redfin. With a decades long need, is there any sound reason for not designating this school for Dunning? The idea that we're going to plunk down a freshman annex that only serves the residents of Edison and Norwood Park is deplorable.

An open letter to the Dunning community might explain the situation best.

From: The City of Chicago
To: Dunning residents

Here is a nice shiny brand new high school, beautifully landscaped, paid for with your ever increasing tax dollars, that once your children reach high school age, will not be allowed to attend. Do however, enjoy driving by it on the way to dropping your kids off at Steinmetz. If Steinmetz isn't to your liking, might I suggest a home equity loan, or a second job to help pay tuition at St.Pats. Or how about a move to the burbs? Now, don't get upset, I know a good real estate agent (I gotta a guy!) and you can list your house in late March as your child approaches 8th grade graduation. And yes, we see that Portage Park has grown up considerably in the past few years, and we admit your Schorsch Village tudors are adoreable. However, our over-crowding problem at Taft simply must come first.

This is what the residents of Dunning are left to conclude from continued silence from city leaders.

  • Somehow my neighborhood school is Schurz. We live at Irving and Narragansett. So seeing this built so close to me, yet having to potentially bring my child all the way to Schurz is very upsetting.

  • Here Here! Well Put!!!!

  • I don’t understand why that would delay. They were aware of the graves before construction, wouldn’t they have taken that into factor?

  • They have and they are prepared to deal with it, neither hell nor high water is going to stop construction.

  • I read the article but didn't realize it would not serve the local families... that's unreal!
    BTW, I am a Realtor, you know, if you need a gal! ;) sold a few homes in Schorsch!

  • Nothing has been decided yet on the new boundaries and feeder schools until this fall

  • Yes, the nice shiny Northside College Prep is the same way. Students from the NW side end up going to schools much further away.

  • Thomas R Resident of Schorsch Village

    That's true Sam, boundaries are still undecided. But talk of this being a Taft annex begs the question of whom it will serve and how. To Emily's point, Let's crunch some numbers.

    3 high schools serve the Northwest Side; Taft, Steinmetz and Schurz. They cover the following Chicago neighborhoods; Jefferson Park, Dunning, Montclare, Belmont Cragin, Galewood, Portage Park, Old Irving, Avondale, Edison Park, Norwood Park, Sauganash and North Mayfair. The combined population of these neighborhoods are approximately 500,000. So 3 high schools serving half a million residents. Maine Township High School District 207 also has 3 high schools. This district is comprised of Park Ridge, most of Des Plaines and parts of Niles, Norridge, Harwood Heights, Morton Grove, Glenview and Norwood Township. The combined population this district serves is below 200,000.

    How can anyone of sane mind argue against the Read Dunning School being anything but a new school for Dunning? The need is incontrovertible. We have two failed schools and one overcrowded, and the best solution is a freshman annex?

  • I sent an email to Alderman Sposato's office regarding this school. The reply that I received from his office was this:Thank you for your comments. A decision by CPS will be made in fall.
    Who knows what is going to occur?

  • I am also curious as to why they dug a massive tunnel under that area, why would it be needed?

  • Thomas R Resident of Schorsch Village

    Does Alderman Sposato have a position? Is he pushing for a 4 year school for Dunning? How does this process usually work? It seems odd that you begin building a school only to hammer out the details later.

  • I think they have already decided the schools future, they are just keeping the public out of the loop because they know people will be upset.

  • When I went to a couple meeting at the beginning it didn’t seem like CPS’ position was changing from a freshman campus for Taft.

  • Thomas R Resident of Schorsch Village

    The devil will be in the details then. Worst case scenario is that residents of the Taft district will only have access to the freshman campus. The rest of Dunning keeps Steinmetz and Schurz. We'll have a daily exodus of students from the Taft district coming to Dunning everyday. Slightly better scenario is that Dunning residents have access to the school. But where would they go after freshman year? Are they grandfathered into the Taft district for the remainder of high school? Or are they kicked to Steinmetz/Schurz? If they are allowed to Taft, you then have a daily exodus of kids from Dunning going to Taft. Why not just make the school for Dunning? Redraw the districts, relieve some of the over-crowding at Taft, give Dunning residents a long needed school and give some Steinmetz and Schurz kids access to a better school. This concept is so simple.

  • If this doesn't serve Dunning-area residents, I'd rather not have a school there at all. More congestion to an already congested stretch of road between Harlem and Narragansett.

  • Agnes Groeper Major of Major

    We keep talking about our three High Schools. Cps also has Prosser, not sure of the spelling, on Grand and a new high school across the street from Prosser on Grand. We watch as Children from this area take public transportation past Steinmetz to the Taft area. This may be why, with the special okays given to some students to attend outside of their district, we have some overcrowding, The mass graves at Dunning should be a concern to us all. There was a loud outcry when a private cemetery removed the remains of people and dumped them on a heap. What is the city doing with remains of the former residents of the asylum? I don't think this has been addressed.The city's riding roughshod over us has to stop.Let's talk about what needs to be done to make them REALLY be translucent. Was the property on Oak Park sold to CPS or is it still city owned? Hanson Park was carved up for Prosser, Hansen Park School, the new Belmont Cragin School and the stadium. If we are not watchful the whole Dunning site will become concrete.

  • Thomas R Resident of Schorsch Village

    The congestion in that area isn't that bad. What needs to happen however, is the elimination of the bike lane on Oak Park between Irving and Montrose. We definitely need two lanes going both ways along this stretch, especially with the school being built. The sidewalk can be used by cyclists as there are hardly any pedestrians on this stretch. Or put a bike land adjacent to the sidewalk, include it with the school plans that students could utilize. To suggest we shouldn't build vital infrastructure because of traffic is silly. People simply need to decide whether or not we want this area of Chicago to thrive and be successful. If we want Dunning to fail, then build an annex and have it serve the affluence of Norwood and Edison Park only. But let's at least be honest with the people moving in and investing in Portage Park. Make it clear they should expect to move once their children approach high school age. Tell them they were naive, and hopefully they can sell their flipped Bungalow for at least what they paid for it. Tell them it's a hard luck lesson of living in the big city. But let's please stop with the pathetic excuses for the sake of the people this status quo serves.

  • Thomas R Resident of Schorsch Village

    To your point Agnes, I was forgetting about Prosser. I'm unsure of the exact disposition of this schooI. Their website says they are a CPS Sprint Program School, I have no idea what this means. This really gets to the heart of this issue. In Chicago, we have failing schools littering the Northwest Side; Foreman and Schurz rated at 1, Steinmetz rated at 2. The solution; Hope your child qualifies for a selective enrollment school, and label other schools with fancy names for the appearance of success. Meanwhile, people who live in our neighborhoods are left with a flip of the coin deciding their children's collegiate future. So despite the fact that Dunning has successful elementary schools, you're SOL after they graduate. When Catholic schools were more affordable, we didn't care about the pathetic state of CPS schools, it was a burden for others to bear. Ethnic residents shrugged off the costs and sent their kids to St. Pat's, Holy Cross, Resurrection, Mother Guerin, Notre Dame and Gordon. These schools now demand a chunk of your 529 plan. It's simply comes down to honesty. Why not be upfront with residents, tell them they are wasting their time investing in Dunning.

  • Thomas, I’m confused by your comments. If Schurz and Foreman are rated 1, why aren’t they viable schools for the neighborhood kids? Steinmetz is s 2+, so getting better all the time. Why not put effort into making them as great as Taft?

  • Thomas R Resident of Schorsch Village

    Hi Peggy. The rating system is a 1-10 system with 1 being the worst. Ratings are from National Center for Education Statistics/ Pitney Bowes/Great Schools, all commonly used by Realtor.com. So none of those schools are viable, simply failing. They're viable if you want your child to live with you until they are 35, holding a job as a grocery bagger at Jewel. Look at how many properties in Dunning are selling for over 450k. Are people spending that much money for failing schools? The answer right now is yes.

  • Got it. I thought you were referring to the CPS rating. But once again, why isn’t it worth trying to fix your existing neighborhood schools just like Taft did. Four years ago no one wanted to go there either. If the new school is only used for the Dunning neighborhood how will that help the overcrowding at Taft? I was under the impression the reason these funds were okayed was because the new school was going to help overcrowding. That would make sense, yes?

  • Thomas R Resident of Schorsch Village

    A new Dunning School and it's district would include parts of the current Taft district. Especially the southern part. Taft's over-crowding problem could be resolved with a map and a few highlighters.

    If someone knows the answer to fixing Steinmetz, Schurz and Foreman, I'm all ears. If it were me, I'd build new schools to replace all three. The economics of maintaining those old asbestos-filled buildings isn't viable. If we have enough money for fancy river walks with floating flower beds, we certainly have money for schools. The only thing lacking from the city is the will.

  • I think that new highschool should be a 4 year school for the Dunning neighborhood and area. Its been planned for years. Steinmetz isnt even close to being in that neighnorhood.

  • But JoeSmith123 it doesn't solve the problem. The issue is the overcrowding of Taft. The neighborhood schools for Dunning aren't overcrowded. The new school will only hold 1,350 students so there is a real problem with taking any other schools from Taft to go there, they won't fit. That is why the Taft South/Freshman Academy was proposed. If it was a bigger school than I agree we should just move some boundaries and bring in all of Smyer and a couple of other grade schools that are close to the new site. But that's not an option.

  • There are no neighborhood high schools in Dunning and I thought this new one was addressing that. Not sure why a Taft only freshman school would be built that far away from the other Taft school... seems stupid. I guess you could send Taft students to Stiementz or something, but that would be the same probably Dunning students have, being assigned to a school far away from the community.

  • Thomas R Resident of Schorsch Village

    Like I said before. Here is a nice shiny brand new high school, beautifully landscaped. Sorry Dunning, despite the fact we're building it in your back yard, your kids cannot use it. Bridge Elementary, you are located less than half a mile away, you have an 8 rating, nice work, but your kids need not apply. No matter how you spin it, there isn't any way to explain the building of a school that isn't accessible to residents who live across the street from it and nearby. It this is for the Taft district only, then build it up there.

  • Thomas, the new school will include the three Dunning elementary schools no matter what. Either for 4 years or their freshman year and then the other three years at Taft. It doesn't solve Steinmetz and Schurz lack of funding (it actually will hurt it, less students less funding), but it does help the Dunning families. I'm surprised the principals at Steinmetz and Schurz aren't up in the arms that this new school will take away the three Dunning schools no matter what.

    I think part of the problem that none of us know how and why they picked the site they picked. I believe at the first meeting we were told that it was the only land available that was large enough. I am not positive about that. I haven't seen it in writing. We were told that there is no land near Taft to build.

    I agree that having a school near by is great. We currently drive 2.8 miles to Taft. It's not that bad. Most families send their kids on the city bus so I don't think anything under 3 miles is that big of a deal.I grew up in the suburbs and my elementary school was 7 miles away (with a ton of stops, taking over an hour). So I guess I think a couple of miles isn't that big of a deal.

  • Come Out Wednesday March 7th at 6pm to Oak Park and Irving Park to show your support for a 4 year stand alone school.

    After showing our support we will head to Nest Bar at Irving Park and New England for Appetizer and neighborly Discussion.

  • Thomas R Resident of Schorsch Village

    See you on Wednesday Jason.

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