A Decade of Progress: The 47th Ward’s Neighborhood Public Schools

The neighborhoods of the 47th ward are great places to live and raise a family because of their parks, access to transit, activities for children, and perhaps most significantly, the strong public schools. Yet a decade ago, only one of the neighborhood elementary schools and none of the neighborhood high schools within the current boundaries of the 47th were considered high performing by the Chicago Public Schools central office. Today, every single neighborhood school is in good standing and all but one are Level 1 or 1+ under the School Quality Rating Policy (SQRP). This tremendous growth in academic achievement is the product of a decade of investment by CPS under Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Richard M. Daley and across the terms of Aldermen Ameya Pawar and Gene Schulter, parental engagement, and hard work by principals and teachers.

This turnaround began with parents working with principals and teachers to improve their schools. The 47th ward schools have among the most engaged local school councils and volunteer “friends of” fundraising organizations in Chicago. This grassroots energy supporting the ward’s schools coalesced into the GrowCommunity organization, which was founded by Alderman Pawar’s office and is now incorporated as a 501(3)(c) and advocates tirelessly for the 47th ward’s neighborhood schools, with a particular emphasis on Lake View and Amundsen High Schools.

Grassroots energy has been supported by investments championed by both Aldermen Pawar and Schulter. This includes programmatic improvements such as the addition of a Regional Gifted Center to Coonley in 2008 and the establishment of an Early College STEM program at Lake View High School in 2012. These programmatic enhancements have been bolstered by more than $150 million in capital investment at 47th ward schools in the last decade, with roughly $130 million coming since Mayor Emanuel took office.

The capital improvements for schools that serve 47th ward students include:

  • New annexes for Coonley and Bell
  • Renovations at Amundsen High School
  • Renovations at Lake View High School including new turf field, gym, and exterior repairs
  • New playground at Audubon Elementary
  • New outdoor campus at McPherson Elementary
  • Renovations at Lane Tech
  • $15 million in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility enhancements
  • Field and landscape improvements at Coonley and Waters

Strong neighborhood schools are part of the foundation that makes the 47th ward a great place to live. The great improvements our schools have achieved over the course of the previous decade has been the product of many hands and, with the continued engagement by the ward’s parents, teachers and principals, the best is surely yet to come.

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