Mayor Richard M. Daley today rang in the start of the 2003-04 school year for the Chicago Public Schools. The Mayor rang the school bell at the new Simeon High School, 8235 S. Vincennes, an 8.1-acre facility built to replace the former high school.
“We hope to have a great year in school and continue the progress we have made by staying focused on our core initiatives such as reading, back-to-basics curriculum, pre-school and after-school programs, ” said Mayor Daley. “We’ll continue working hard day after day to lift every child in every school and give them the best education possible.”
“And as the school year takes off, I want to stress the importance of keeping children involved in positive activities every afternoon after school through KidStart and the many school, library, park and community programs that are offered,” added Mayor Daley.
Chicago Public Schools is launching a new Math and Science Initiative this year that will include new curriculum and provide math and science coaching for students.
After a news conference held at Simeon High School, Mayor Daley toured the new $40 million facility which includes six science labs, eight computer labs, and several vocational education facilities. It will also house 24 standard classrooms, art and music rooms, as well as a full-service kitchen.
Simeon offers vocational training in various industries including technology, automotive, welding, culinary arts, cosmetology, architecture and drafting, commercial art, and electrical.
The new Simeon is just one of eight new schools and/or additions opening this school year. Field, Cuffe and McNair elementary schools also began the school year in new buildings today. Moos, Goudy, and Murray elementary schools, as well as Kelly High School opened new additions year.
Construction projects are also underway to build a new Kelvyn Park High School, DePriest and Anderson elementary schools. This June the Board of Education approved a $340 million budget that will be used for additional construction projects bringing the CPS total commitment to capital improvement to more than $4 billion.
Since 1996, the CPS has added classroom space for more than 40,000 students system wide, resulting in 21 new schools, 8 replacement schools, 34 additions, and 27 annexes. CPS has also completed, or is in the process of completing, 2,094 renovations, 58 state-of-the-art science labs, 94 campus parks, 16 athletic fields and 282 play lots.
“We’re all very excited about the upcoming school year. In fact, we’d like to keep building on the momentum we had last year,” said Arne Duncan, CPS Chief Executive Officer.
Duncan reported that last year’s attendance and graduation rates were the highest they’ve been in recent years, and that mobility, truancy and dropout rates were at an all time low.
“That’s a credit to our students, parents, teachers and the whole city of Chicago. But let’s not rest on our laurels. We still have a lot of work to do,” added Duncan.
The Chicago Public Schools is the nation’s third-largest school district and the second-largest employer in Illinois, with more than 45,000 employees. The school system operates 602 schools and serves 438,000 students.