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The newly constructed North-Grand High School, a $35 million state-of-the-art building, opened this week, adding 1,000 new classroom seats to the district, as Chicago Public Schools continues to invest in strategies that address the constantly changing demographics of the city.
The contemporarily designed school, at 4338 W. Wabansia, houses four computer labs, five science classrooms, two music rooms, and a culinary arts classroom for 9th through 12th grades. It is part of Mayor Richard M. Daley’s Renaissance 2010 initiative to create 100 new schools over the next six years.
North-Grand’s 206,800-square-foot facility was built to provide overcrowding relief for nearby Kelvyn Park High School, 4343 W. Wrightwood, in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. The new seats are among more than 50,000 new slots CPS has added to the system since 1995 by building new schools, expanding existing schools and leasing closed private schools to reopen them as public schools.
“As a new school year begins, so continues our challenge of providing overcrowding relief in rapidly growing communities,” said Arne Duncan, CEO of Chicago Public Schools. “North-Grand is an amazing new learning environment and will go a long way toward addressing our needs in this neighborhood.”
The new school is one of several capital projects completed or underway to help the district tackle the issue of overcrowding, particularly in expanding communities on the Northwest and Southwest sides of Chicago.
In 2005, CPS plans to open Little Village High School, which will actually house four small schools. About $60 million, the largest amount CPS has ever spent on constructing a new school, will be invested in this facility.
About $27 million will be spent on building an addition to Juarez High School in Pilsen, while another $40 million in capital projects will go toward additions, modular units, and leases to create more classroom slots.
“Unfortunately, the issue of overcrowding is complicated and persistent, and it shifts from neighborhood to neighborhood over time,” Duncan said. “And sometimes the solution isn’t found in constructing new buildings, but in finding creative ways to address the problem.”
Among the more creative solutions CPS officials have planned for next year is placing more schools on year-round schedules. CPS also has made boundary changes to allow students at overcrowded schools to attend schools with lower enrollments.
Renaissance 2010, while primarily designed to turn around low-performing and low-enrollment schools, also seeks solutions for overcrowding.
Construction of the new North-Grand High School is the result of a partnership between CPS and the Public Building Commission of Chicago. The PBC and CPS also worked together to build two other schools that opened this year, Claremont Academy at 2300 W. 64th Street, and Oscar DePriest Elementary School at 116 N. Leclaire.
The PBC is expected to complete construction of Little Village High School next fall.
“New schools are more than mere construction projects to us,” said Montel Gayles, executive director of the PBC. “These facilities are designed to help the CPS address key areas of need while providing new avenues to achievement for the children who attend them. The PBC is proud to play a role in such an important process.”
The Chicago Public Schools is the nation’s third-largest school district and the second-largest employer in Illinois, with more than 46,000 employees. The school system operates about 600 schools and serves more than 431,000 students.