By TONIA HILL
Middle and high school students from the University of Chicago Charter Woodlawn Campus entered the doors of their new school building, last Thursday. The new building is located on the corner of Greenwood Avenue and 63rd Street, just steps away from their previous building which is 100 years old. “We are ecstatic to be moving into this new facility,” said UChicago Charter School CEO Tanika Island Childress in a written statement. “Our prior building was 100 years old and was built to accommodate elementary versus middle and high school students. It lacked capacity for classroom technology and required us to rent additional space to administer core programs. The new Woodlawn building will increase our capacity to serve the community and provide our students with the resources and technology they need to succeed in college and 21st-century careers.” Last May, the students led hard hat tours for community members to view the three-story, 70,000 square foot building that features a brick design based on West African textiles and inspired by Kente cloth, a type of silk and cotton fabric made of intertwined cloth strips. The brick design has movement and is meant to mimic some of the patterns on Kente cloth. The new facility will serve 650 6th to 12th-grade students from Woodlawn and surrounding South Side neighborhoods. It will also be a space for the neighborhood to host community events.
“We have always been proud to be part of the Woodlawn community,” said Todd Barnett, director of Partnerships, Family and Community Engagement at the UChicago Charter School, in a written statement. “We are excited to begin this new chapter of our experience in Woodlawn, to help continue the revitalization of this wonderful neighborhood, and to serve more students from South Side communities.” The main level of the building has a college expo center. College and career fairs will be hosted in the space on the main level. A college counseling space will be placed alongside it, and it will have resources for students to conduct research and complete online applications. Also, included on the main level are the cafeteria, gymnasium, which will double as an auditorium, a dance studio, and multi-purpose room. The multi-purpose room is designed for athletic teams and physical education classes that will use the space for weightlifting and exercise. The largest space in the school is the gymnasium and will double as an auditorium. All cultural events for the school will be held inside. The second floor is designated for UChicago Charter’s middle school program. It will have 13 classrooms, a science lab, and a media room that will be used by middle and high school students. The third floor is set for high school students there are 18 classrooms two science labs on the floor, as well as an engineering lab. The engineering lab will be the space for the school’s Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) program. Another grand feature of the building is its rooftop greenhouse where students and the community will have access. The greenhouse overlooks a future athletic field on the back end of the building. The school has a garden now at its current building site will transport the garden over to the greenhouse. UChicago Charter School’s Woodlawn campus opened in 2006. “In 2016, UCW boasted a college persistence rate of 85 percent, ranking second among all non-selective high schools in the Chicago Public Schools district,” according to UChicago Woodlawn.