Dyett High School is one of the recipients of CPS, CTU $10 million investment for better support and services to kids and families

Contributing Writer

Walter H. Dyett High School for the Arts, 555 E. 51st St., was among the 20 schools selected to receive a combined $10 million investment to implement the Sustainable Community Schools Initiative, a new initiative that pairs schools with community organizations to provide critical services to better support children and families. Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union announced the list of schools on Aug. 7.

In order to be considered for the initiative, schools must be registered for neighborhood open enrollment, and located in a low-income community with 81 percent or more of the students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.

The pilot program, scheduled to start in October, was created to “increase parent and community engagement, improve school climate and address students’ socio-emotional needs,” according to the CTU. The model, produced after nearly two years of negotiation between CPS, CTU and community allies in the Grassroots Education Movement, also includes trauma services and restorative justice practices for students and family members, provides children with out-of-school programs, and helps ensure that curriculum is culturally relevant.

“When schools and communities work together, great things happen for our children,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement. “The Sustainable Community Schools Initiative will help foster collaboration and cooperation between schools and communities in neighborhoods across Chicago. This is a win for our students, our schools and our communities.”

Dyett High School will partner with Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), which has a longstanding reputation for helping low-income and working families within North Kenwood, Oakland and its adjacent communities. In 2015, KOCO led in the formation of the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett, which successfully advocated to have Dyett re-opened, remain an open enrollment neighborhood school, and incorporate green technology into its curriculum after the Chicago Board of Education phased it out.

“We are extremely grateful to have this grant come to our school,” said Dyett Principal Beulah McLoyd. “We want Dyett to be a pillar of authentic engagement in the Bronzeville and larger south side community, for it to serve as a technology hub that can support and benefit everyone, and fill the demand for an arts high school in on the south side.”

According to McLoyd, the school plans to accomplish several different projects with the investment, including providing diverse learners with a counseling department that and will support their emotional and academic well-being, and meets an adequate student to counselor ratio [at minimum one social worker per 250 students] with the aid of KOCO; increase enrollment that can weather population changes, prioritize support in student leadership initiatives, and create a robust after-schools program and school curriculum focused on the school’s art focused vision.

Examples of resources the school community can receive through the program also include children and family health services, social and emotional learning support, enrichment and recreational activities, family programming and homelessness support services.

“These are a few of the interest points we’ve discussed with community members at Dyett, but we will have future meetings led by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization to decide where we want these resources to go,” added McLoyd.

The planning committee will consist of two Dyett parents, one student, one teacher and members of the neighborhood.

In addition to receiving $500,000 to implement the Sustainable Community Schools Initiative, earlier last month Dyett High School was announced to be among the 28 selected schools to receive renovations to their science laboratories as part of the district’s new $75 million investment plan to upgrade 82 public high school labs over the next three years.

“This will help us ensure that students have a solid foundation in the arts and sciences, so that they can fully compete in a global economy,” said McLoyd in a written statement.

Dyett High School is slated to receive new science labs for the 2019 to 2020 school year.