By MEREDITH OGILVIE
Today marked the first day back to school for Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and the grand opening of the newly refurbished Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts (Dyett). CPS CEO Forrest Claypool and Chief Education Officer Janice K. Jackson joined new principal Beulah McLoyd and Dyett hunger striker Jitu Brown as they cut the ribbon along with a group of excited freshmen.
CPS invested over $14,000,000 to bring Dyett into the 21st century with a dance studio that has walls covered by mirrors, a dark classroom where students will learn set design and a black box theater where students can put on performances.
McLoyd said there is also be an innovations lab that will be opened to parents.
“We are only fighting half the battle if we do not engage parents as well,” McLoyd said.
In 2015, Dyett closed due to a decline in enrollment however; the new Dyett has already exceeded its goal of enrolling 125 freshmen and currently has enrolled over 150 freshmen. The new Dyett also has a student body of 80 percent from the community. A huge accomplishment for a school that was only recently in the process of being phased out.
CPS worked with the community to arrive at a solution that met several needs: create an open enrollment neighborhood school, fill the critical demand for an arts high school on the south side, produce an enrollment stream that can weather population changes, and work with education leaders to create a technology hub.
The school will now have three full time arts teachers that specialize in dance, visual arts and digital media.
“Art classes can be taken all four years whereas some other high school curriculums offer courses only in the final years,” McLoyd said.
A feature that remains with the school is the student-run farm that Dyett created in partnership with the Chicago Botanical Garden that teaches kids how to grow edibles year round. The idea is to “build on the promise of the future with traditions of the past,” McLoyd said.
As for community involvement, McLoyd will be holding monthly community meetings to answer questions, give feedback and engage with the community.
More information on Dyett visit www.newdyett.org.