By Joan Hadac
Editor and Publisher
Southwest Chicago Post
For the first time in more than a century, a high school will be built in the Clearing neighborhood, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan (D-22nd) and 13th Ward Ald. Marty Quinn announced last weekend.
At an invitation-only event in the second-floor ballroom of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, officials said that a new Hancock High School will be constructed from the ground up.
They did not say where the new school will be built, when or at what cost, but it was later
learned that the school will be built on a long-vacant, block-long parking lot at 65th and Long—which decades ago served as parking for employees of Continental Can, directly across the street, during Bedford Park’s boom years.
Here is a link to a map of Clearing.
Chicago Public Schools officials are currently in negotiations to acquire the land from a private owner. The outcome of those negotiations will determine when the new high school will be built.
Construction of the new selective-enrollment Hancock High School is expected to cost at least $50 million. The new Hancock will accommodate 1,200 students in 47 classrooms.
Hancock is currently housed in the old Lourdes High School building at 56th and Komensky. What will become of that building is up in the air.
The elected officials at the event praised each other for their commitment and actions.
“I simply want to say that Mayor Rahm Emanuel has done more for the education of children on the Southwest Side of Chicago than any of his predecessors, “Madigan said, who added that the mayor’s actions are “remarkable, astounding…new schools have been built, new programs have been started, academically challenging programs.”
Quinn likened Madigan to legendary Chicagoan Daniel Burnham and said the Speaker’s decades-long vision for the Southwest Side includes “big plans that stir the blood.”
Emanuel praised Madigan and Quinn for their commitment to education, as well as their persistence, saying they have been on him from “Day One” of his tenure in 2011 to increase the quantity and quality of public education on the Southwest Side.
As they announced the construction of a new Hancock High School, officials also reiterated a previously announced plan--that the current Dore Elementary School at 61st and Natoma will be repurposed into an early childhood education center—presumably to open about six months after current Dore students move into their new building at 65th and Nottingham in January 2019.
Regarding early childhood education, the mayor repeated a favorite assertion of his. “Kids start dropping out of college in fourth grade. They don’t drop out in freshman year [of college]. So it’s our responsibility to make sure that by the time children are four years old, they know their colors, their shapes, their numbers, their letters—so that they’re better prepared,” he said.
He also reiterated his view about making early childhood education accessible to all.
“If you’re poor in our city, like other cities, you have Head Start,” the mayor said. “If you’re well off and comfortable, you’ll figure it out for your children. But if you’re a working parent, you have to figure out how to find $13,000 to get [an early childhood education] for your child…that’s not right.”
He called the retooling of Dore “an investment in the community” that guarantees that working parents have access to early childhood education. “No parents will have to leave work halfway through the day because they have to pick up their child at school,” Emanuel said. “So you can be both a good parent and a good worker.